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Environmental Risks High In The Lists of Global Concerns: WEF


The climate catastrophe being predicted by climate scientists as in these past years may actually become a reality in this generation and the next.

By Salam Rajesh

For those following closely on the trail of the climate crises the world over, it is bad news all along this decade and the next, and in the future times, if things go unheeded as in the current considerations, in terms of the predicted crises confronting the world on the climate front.

The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Risks Report 2023 has this bad-show message for the world community: “The next decade will be characterized by environmental and societal crises, driven by underlying geopolitical and economic trends. The ‘Cost-of-living crisis’ is ranked as the most severe global risk over the next two years, peaking in the short term. ‘Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse’ is viewed as one of the fastest deteriorating global risks over the next decade, and all six environmental risks feature in the top 10 risks over the next 10 years”.

The environmental risks featured in the listing during this decade and the next include: Failure to mitigate climate change (at number 1), failure of climate-change adaptation (2), natural disasters and extreme weather events (3), biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse (4), large-scale involuntary migration (5), natural resource crises (6), erosion of social cohesion and societal polarization (7), widespread cybercrime and cyber insecurity (8), geo-economic confrontation (9), and large-scale environmental damage incidents (10) – all in that order of (de)merit.

Viewed from this scale of perception on the possible environmental risks in the next decade and beyond, the WEF analysis’ feature ‘Failure to mitigate climate change’ is marked on the top of the table, essentially highlighting the failure of Governments in committing cent per cent to the negotiations agreed to at the several global forums during this decade, and in the past.

The ‘failure to mitigate climate change’ ranking is viewed as one of the most severe threats in the short and the long term. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the “chance of breaching the 1.5°C target by as early as 2030 stands at 50 percent. Despite some longer term government action on the energy transition, such as the USA’s Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s REPowerEU plan, overall momentum for climate mitigation is unlikely to rapidly accelerate in the next two years”.

The WEF report is being very critical when it says that, “Despite 30 years of global climate advocacy and diplomacy, the international system has struggled to make the required progress on climate change which is amply reflected in the analysis that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have all reached record highs. Emission trajectories make it very unlikely that global ambitions to limit warming to 1.5°C will be achieved”.

This is as dark as it can sound, providing a fair warning to the global community that unless things are speeded up, the climate catastrophe being predicted by climate scientists as in these past years may actually become a reality in this generation and the next.

In its analysis on the short term impact, measured at a time scale of within the next two years, the WEF report prioritizes the impacts on this formulae: Cost-of-living crisis (at number 1), natural disasters and extreme weather events (2), geo-economic confrontation (3), failure to mitigate climate change (4), erosion of social cohesion and societal polarization (5), large-scale environmental damage incidents (6), failure of climate change adaptation (7), widespread cybercrime and cyber insecurity (8), natural resource crises (9), and large-scale involuntary migration (10) in that ranking of concern.

The ‘cost of living crisis’ is naturally assumed as resulting from the impacts of environmental crises that had and can occur dramatically in terms of the devastating impacts of severe cyclonic storms, major earthquakes, extensive droughts and wildfires, extensive rainfall failure, and much more. When the agricultural systems are considerably affected by climate regimes, it can lead to escalation in food shortage and subsequent price rise beyond a limit where marginalized communities will fare pretty hard to cope with.

The correspondent high cost of living can also induce out-migration of the poverty stricken communities, which in turn can induce demographic imbalance in other regions possibly resulting in intense conflict situations on ground.

In the midst of these global concerns are the pervasive failures in global negotiations on the climate issues, so much as the report points out that, “Negotiations at the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27) failed to reach a much-needed agreement to phase out all fossil fuels, laying bare the difficulty of balancing short-term needs with longer-term ambitions”.

This basically brings out the conflict of interest between big time companies and the policy framers and Governments, wherein the interests of the companies and industries become a factor in stalling any positive outcome to the negotiations and achievements on the ground.

To add spice to the issue, the report does not hesitate in saying that, “There is also growing recognition that not only the pace of the transition but also effectiveness and integrity matter: climate litigation is increasing and concerns about emissions under-reporting and green washing have triggered calls for new regulatory oversight for the transition to net zero”.

The discussion and due analysis in the report does not fare good tidings for the world community, in so much as spelling out that in many instances global negotiations had failed to achieve a level of mutual understanding amongst countries to work collectively in the global effort at limiting the global temperature rise.

In defining the term “global risk”, the WEF report broadly states that it is the “possibility of the occurrence of an event or condition which, if it occurs, would negatively impact a significant proportion of global GDP, population or natural resources”. The definition, simply said, can be the worst case scenario for the world community in the eventuality of such an occurrence in future times.

(The writer looks at environmental stories through the journalistic lens. He can be reached at [email protected])

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