For the first time in the survey’s 10-year outlook, the top five global risks in terms of likelihood are all environmental. They are: extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, major natural disasters, major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, and human-made environmental damage and disasters.
The Global Risks Report 2020 has been published in advance of the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). According to a press release by the WEF, “for the first time in the survey’s 10-year outlook, the top five global risks in terms of likelihood are all environmental.” The Global Risks Report informs the WEF’s multi-stakeholder initiatives throughout the year.
The report derives from the results of an annual ‘Global Risks Perception Survey’ that is sent to approximately 800 members of the WEF community. Respondents are asked to assess: (1) the likelihood of a global risk occurring over the course of the next decade, and (2) the severity of its impact at a global level if it were to occur.
The report frames the global economy as facing increased risk of stagnation, rapid climate change, a “fragmented cyberspace that threatens the full potential of next-generation technologies,” and global protests against political and economic conditions and systems that worsen inequality.
The top five risks by likelihood over the next 10 years include: extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms, etc.); failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation; major natural disasters (e.g. earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption, geomagnetic storms); major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; and human-made environmental damage and disasters.
The top five risks by severity of impact over the next decade are: failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation; weapons of mass destruction; major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms, etc.); and water crises.
Respondents also assessed the interconnections between pairs of global risks. The topmost strongly connected global risks include: extreme weather events and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation; large-scale cyberattacks and the breakdown of critical information infrastructure and networks; high structural unemployment or underemployment and adverse consequences of technological advances; major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation; and food crises and extreme weather events.
The World Economic Forum will convene from 21-24 January in Davos, Switzerland under the theme, ‘A Cohesive and Sustainable World.’ The meeting aims to “shape global, regional and industry agendas at the beginning of each year.” The Four global issues that will feature prominently on the agenda include environmental challenges, sustainable business; technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and demographic, social and technological trends reshaping education, employment and entrepreneurship.
The mission of the Munich Security Conference is to “address the world’s most pressing security concerns”. These days, that means climate security: climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier, and anyone discussing food security, political instability, migration, or competition over resources should be aware of the climate change pressures that are so often at the root of security problems.
The European Green Deal has made the environment and climate change the focus of EU action. Indeed, climate change impacts are already increasing the pressure on states and societies; however, it is not yet clear how the EU can engage on climate security and environmental peacemaking. In this light, and in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency, adelphi and its partners are organising a roundtable series on “Climate, environment, peace: Priorities for EU external action in the decade ahead”.
In January 2020, the German Federal Foreign Office launched Green Central Asia, a regional initiative on climate and security in Central Asia and Afghanistan. The aim of the initiative is to support a dialogue in the region on climate change and associated risks in order to foster regional integration between the six countries involved.
Climate change will shift key coordinates of foreign policy in the coming years and decades. Even now, climate policy is more than just environment policy; it has long since arrived at the centre of foreign policy. The German Foreign Office recently released a report on climate diplomacy recognizing the biggest challenges to security posed by climate change and highlighting fields of action for strengthening international climate diplomacy.