Environmental Risks Take Top Three Spots

Environmental risks — extreme weather, failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and natural disasters — are the top three most likely risks according to the 2019 survey of 1,000 experts from government, business, academia, and non-governmental organizations.  The survey’s release at the outset of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, contained a jarring assessment of these risks, saying that “the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe.”

  • The policy failures to deal with climate change moved up from #5 in 2018 to #2 in 2019, which is not surprising given that the UN Climate Report and the US Fourth Climate Assessment have been in the headlines and fires and storms have been in the headlines for months.

In addition, the survey highlighted a different environmental issue — the accelerating pace of biodiversity loss is a particular concern.

  • The Executive Summary states that “[s]pecies abundance is down by 60% since 1970. In the human food chain, biodiversity loss is affecting health and socioeconomic development, with implications for well-being, productivity, and even regional security.”

Finally, the Report also called attention to rapidly growing coastal cities, particularly in Asia, which is making hundreds of millions of people more vulnerable to climate change.

  • The authors worry about a “vicious circle” of urbanization that “concentrates people and buildings in areas of potential damage, while also increasing risks, by destroying natural sources of resilience, such as mangrove forests, or increasing strain on groundwater reserves.”

Why This Matters:  The line expression “sleepwalking into catastrophe” is both memorable and apt.  It is hard to know what will wake us up from our complacency.  Global elites are increasingly worried but what are they doing about it.  How are these influencers acting on their concerns??  The only people who seem to really feel the urgency are young people — see our Heroes of the Week below.  We hope that more and more young people will keep raising their voices.  They have historically been at the heart of social movements.

To Go Deeper:  Read the entire report here.  Watch the panel discussion of the risks here.

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