Climate Change Named Biggest Global Threat in New WEF Risks Report
By Uwe Hessler
In its 15th Global Risks Report published on Wednesday, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has said that for the first time in the report's history, all of the "top long-term risks by likelihood" are environmental. While in the previous decade economic and financial crises were seen as most dangerous, the report has found that risk perceptions have shifted to extreme weather, environmental disasters, biodiversity loss, natural catastrophes and failure to mitigate climate change.
"Climate change is a very real and serious threat to society," said Alison Martin, a senior member of Zurich Insurance Group, who helped compile the publication, alongside consultancy Marsh & McLennan and a number of renowned universities from across the world.
"Extreme weather events such as heat waves and flooding are becoming more commonplace and severe, leaving communities to deal with often devastating humanitarian and economic costs," she added.
WEF is an international organization focusing on cooperation between the public and private sectors, and brings together business leaders, government policymakers and representatives of civil society to foster global deliberations on burning issues.
Published in the run-up to the WEF's 50th anniversary meeting in Davos later this month, the report surveyed the opinions of more than 750 global experts and decision-makers to rank their biggest concerns in terms of likelihood and impact.
Among the short-term risks facing mankind already in 2020, three out of four respondents to the survey cited economic confrontations, political polarization, extreme heat waves, destruction of natural resource ecosystems and cyberattacks as the most pressing ones.
Multilateral Systems Falling Apart
WEF describes the world we live in as rife with "geopolitical and geoeconomic uncertainty." Powerful economic, demographic and technological forces are shaping a new balance of power, in which states are increasingly viewing opportunities and challenges through "unilateral lenses."
As a result, alliance structures and multilateral systems are threatening to collapse under the pressure of "nationalist postures in pursuit of individual agendas and economic decoupling."
WEF President Borge Brende noted in the report that renewing the architecture of multilateral political and economic systems was "this generation's defining task."
"It will be a monumental undertaking, but an indispensable one. The Global Risks Report demonstrates how high the stakes are," he wrote, adding that hopes for the global system to simply "snap back" was running the risk of missing "crucial windows" to address pressing problems.
Economic Stability and Social Cohesion
Amid fraying global consensus about politics and economics, the WEF fears that 2020 will be marked by heightened economic confrontations and domestic political polarization, the report says.
In addition, weakening economic growth and rising financial inequality are increasing the risk of economic stagnation, while at the same time governments' space to stimulate economies with monetary and fiscal policy is narrowing.
Amid this darkening economic outlook, people's discontent with their political leaders is set to harden, leading to more public protests that are potentially weakening the ability of governments to take decisive action should a downturn occur.
But without economic and social stability, countries could lack the "financial resources, political capital or social support needed to confront key global risks."
Climate Threats and Biodiversity Loss
As the last five years have already been the warmest on record, climate change is expected to strike harder in the coming years, making weather-related disasters more intense and more frequent.
"The near-term impacts of climate change add up to a planetary emergency that will include loss of life, social and geopolitical tensions and negative economic impacts," the report says, adding that failure of climate change mitigation and adaption is the No. 1 risk by impact and number two by likelihood over the next 10 years.
With it comes the loss of biodiversity — ranked as the second most impactful and third most likely risk for the next decade — which has critical implications for humanity due to the likely collapse of food and health systems and disruptions of entire supply chains.
Digital Fragmentation and Health Care
While digital technology is bringing tremendous economic and societal benefits to much of the global population, the respondents to the WEF survey believe that unequal access to the internet, the lack of a global technology governance framework and cyberinsecurity are all posing significant risk.
This will "prevent the full potential of next generation technologies from being realized," the report concludes.
In the field of public health care, threats to existing systems are mainly seen coming from "changing societal, environmental, demographic and technological patterns" that could undo the dramatic gains in wellness and prosperity.
Here, the report identifies the rise in, for example, cardiovascular diseases and mental illness, as well as the increasing costs from chronic diseases as threats to public health systems worldwide.
"As existing health risks resurge and new ones emerge, humanity's past successes in overcoming health challenges are no guarantee of future results," the report says.
WEF concludes its 2020 risks assessment by saying that "as the window of opportunity is closing, coordinated, multistakeholder action is needed quickly to mitigate against the worst outcomes."
Reposted with permission from DW.
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This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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