WEF’s Global Report Identifies Climate Change Impacts, Water Crises Among Top Five Risks

WEF’s Global Report Identifies Climate Change Impacts, Water Crises Among Top Five Risks

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published the 14th edition of its annual report ranking global risks, both in terms of impact and likelihood, with environmental threats topping both lists for the third year in a row. ‘The Global Risks Report 2019,’ assesses the current global risk landscape, and identifies priority areas for action in 2019.

By Leila Mead, Thematic Expert for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy (US)

climate change.jpg
Representative Image Source: Pixabay, labeled for reuse

The report presents the results of the WEF’s latest Global Risks Perception Survey, which surveyed nearly 1,000 decision makers from the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society who identified extreme weather and climate change policy failures as the gravest threats over the next decade. The report urges governments and organizations to address the impact of specific threats and make preparations to contain potential fallout should they occur.

Environmental concerns account for three of the top five risks by likelihood and four by impact. The report lists extreme weather events, “failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation,” and natural disasters as the top three risks in terms of likelihood. In terms of impact, weapons of mass destruction top the list, followed by failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, extreme weather events, water crises and natural disasters.

The report highlights accelerating pace of biodiversity loss as concerning, with species abundance down by 60 percent since 1970, according to a 2018 WWF report.

According to the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), nine of the ten risks with above average impact and likelihood are linked to water. For example, poor water governance plays a role in, inter alia, manmade and natural disasters, large-scale involuntary migration, and biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, where populations of freshwater species have declined by around 83 percent over the last 50 years.

The report also finds that risk of infectious disease outbreaks rivals that of climate change, with risks of outbreak increasing significantly over the past 30 years and nearly 200 epidemic events occurring every year since 2011. According to a WEF press release, pandemics lead to average annual economic losses of 0.7 percent of global GDP, or USD 570 billion, similar to projected losses from climate change in the coming decades.

The report further describes the ways in which the risks are interconnected and have the potential to affect each other. For example, biodiversity loss in the human food chain affects health and socioeconomic development, with implications for productivity and regional security, among others. Additionally, challenges and risk related to climate change, extreme weather and water stress, for example, require a holistic approach to tackle multiple hazards and build the resilience of basic infrastructure.

Other top risks identified in the report include cyberattacks and data fraud, reflecting an overall trend as technology shapes the risk landscape.

Source: IISD SDG Knowledge Hub