Greta Thunberg and US president Donald Trump are both set to speak at Davos © REUTERS/Andrew Hofstetter/AdobeStock
Greta Thunberg and US president Donald Trump are both set to speak at Davos © REUTERS/Andrew Hofstetter/AdobeStock

Environment tops global risk agenda

posted by Charlie Hart
in Risk
16 January 2020

Failure to take action on climate change has been ranked as the top global risk but economic risk could be a “blind spot”, according to a report.

The Global Risk Report, produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF), found environmental issues, such as failure by businesses and governments to mitigate the impact of climate change, dominated the ranking of predicted risks.

Business leaders, NGOs, and academics were asked to rank the likelihood and severity of economic, environmental, geopolitical, social and technological risks. 

The top five long-term risks identified by the annual report all linked environmental issues for the first time.

Risks included extreme weather events damaging property, infrastructure and a loss of human life; human-made environmental damage such as oil spills and radioactive contamination; major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; and major natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and geomagnetic storms.

The report noted economic risks were absent from the top 10 but warned of a “continuing global economic malaise that will limit progress in all other areas, including climate action”.

Emilio Granados Franco, lead author of the report and head of global risks and geopolitical agenda at the WEF, said: “Because environmental and economic risks are inextricably linked, risk perceptions that account for only one over the other mean blind spots may be arising and integrated mitigation efforts may be lacking.”

Over three quarters (78%) of those surveyed said they expect “economic confrontations” and “domestic political polarisation” to be significant short-term risks in 2020.

“Geopolitical turbulence is propelling us towards an ‘unsettled’ unilateral world of great power rivalries at a time when business and government leaders must focus urgently on working together to tackle shared risks,” the report said. 

Borge Brende, president of the WEF, added: “The political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks.”

The report has been published ahead of the WEF's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on 21-14 January 2020. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg and US president Donald Trump are among the speakers at the high-profile event.

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