Environmental threats dominate 2020 Global Risks Report for the first time in history

Environmental threats dominate 2020 Global Risks Report for the first time in history

By Georgina Wade

The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report finds that severe threats to our climate account for all of the top long-term risks, with “economic confrontations” and domestic political polarization” recognized as significant short-term risks in 2020. For the first time in the history of the survey’s 10-year outlook, environmental threats dominate the top five long term risks by likelihood and occupy three of the top five spots by impact.

Source: World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2019-2020

The report provides a rich perspective on the major threats that may impact global prosperity in 2020 and beyond. The 15th edition of the report, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), draws on feedback from nearly 800 global experts and decision-makers who were asked to rank their concerns in terms of likelihood and impact.

The report forecasts a year of increased domestic and international divisions with the added risk of economic slowdown with 78% of survey respondents expecting economic confrontations and domestic political polarisation to rise in 2020. However, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation is this year’s number one long-term risk by impact and number two by likelihood. And while other risk categories made their way into the top ten, climate risks underpin many of those identified.

Source: World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2019-2020

Established environmental risks include:

  • Loss of life
  • Stress on ecosystems
  • Food and water crises
  • Increased migration
  • Exacerbation of geopolitical tensions
  • Economic impacts
  • Capital market risks
  • Trade, labour and supply chain disruption

With climate change striking harder and more rapidly than expected, a planetary emergency resulting in loss of life, social and geopolitical tensions and negative economic impacts is entirely plausible. The report further proves that established leaders and experts agree on one thing: climate change is the prominent long-term risk the world faces. There is still scope for stakeholders to address the identified risks associate with climate change, but the window of opportunity is closing. Citing a need for coordinated, multi-stakeholder action to mitigate against the worst outcomes and build resilience across vulnerable communities and businesses, World Economic Forum President Børge Brende warns, “The window for action is still open, if not for much longer”.

You can access the full report here.


Cover photo by Charles Wiriawan on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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