By Caroline Fouvet,
Now in its 12th edition, the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Risks Report, predicts that environment-related risks, in particular those linked to climate change, pose the greatest threat to global prosperity in the coming decade. Environmental risks were found to be both highly likely to occur, and to have severe impacts on global growth.
Based on a survey of over 750 international risk experts, the report aims to draw global leaders’ attention to major emerging risks, helping them to plan and prepare. While previous reports have emphasised economic issues as predominant risks; the 2017 report ranks environmental concerns considerably higher.
Extreme weather events were ranked as the most probable risks the world faces this year following a series of damaging events in 2016 including hurricane Matthew, the memorable Spring floods in France and the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire in Canada.
The report also found environmental risks to rank highly in terms of the potential impact. ‘Extreme weather events’, ‘water crises’, ‘major natural disasters’ and ‘failure of climate change adaptation and mitigation’ were ranked in the report’s top five hazards in this regard. Only ‘Weapons of mass destruction’ ranked higher.Climate change was the number two underlying trend this year. And for the first time, all five environmental risks in the survey were ranked both high-risk and high-likelihood, with extreme weather events emerging as the single most prominent global risk.
The analysis shows that environmental and climate risks are especially damaging because of their interconnectedness with other risk categories. Migration, food-related emergencies, and water crises are all associated threats to environmental pressures and extreme weather events. What’s more, environmental degradation may contribute to the failure of critical economic systems. This emphasises the importance of understanding global risks as interconnected and interdependent.
Cover photo by U.S. Department of State (Public Domain)