Hundreds of global experts and decision-makers have raised biggest concerns about the global risks of climate change, saying they expected “economic confrontations” and “domestic political polarisation” to rise in 2020.
According to the World Economic Forum’s global risks report, published on Wednesday, economic and political polarisation will rise this year, as collaboration between world leaders, businesses and policy-makers is needed more than ever to stop severe threats to climate, environment, public health and technology systems.
The African continent will be hardest hit by climate change as it is more vulnerable than any other region to the world’s changing weather patterns, according to climate specialist Richard Washington.
Millions of Africans depend on rainfall for food production
Washington’s recent report explained that Africa would be hit hard by climate change as hundreds of millions of people depend on rainfall to grow their food.
The two most extensive land-based end-of-century projected decreases in rainfall anywhere on the planet occur over Africa, one over North Africa and the other over southern Africa.
This points to a clear need for a multistakeholder approach to mitigating risk at a time when the world cannot wait for the fog of geopolitical disorder to lift.
The WEF’s global risks report, produced in partnership with Marsh & McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, points to a need for policy-makers to match targets for protecting the Earth with ones for boosting economies and for companies to avoid the risks of potentially disastrous future losses by adjusting to science-based targets.
“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,” World Economic Forum president, Borge Brende, said.
The Global Risks Report is part of the Global Risks Initiative that brings stakeholders together to develop sustainable, integrated solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
Rising climate volatility
Systems-level thinking is required to confront looming geopolitical and environmental risks and threats that may otherwise fall under the radar. This year’s report focuses explicitly on impacts from rising inequality, gaps in technology governance, and health systems under pressure.
Chairperson of Marsh & McLennan Insights, John Drzik, said: “There is mounting pressure on companies from investors, regulators, customers, and employees to demonstrate their resilience to rising climate volatility.
“Scientific advances mean that climate risks can now be modeled with greater accuracy and incorporated into risk management and business plans.
High profile events, like recent wildfires in Australia and California, are adding pressure on companies to take action on climate risk at a time when they also face greater geopolitical and cyber risk challenges,” Drzik said.
Human activity has already caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, which underpin food and health systems.
Peter Giger, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance Group warned of the urgent need to adapt faster to avoid the worst and irreversible impacts of climate change and to do more to protect the planet’s biodiversity.
“Biologically diverse ecosystems capture vast amounts of carbon and provide massive economic benefits that are estimated at $33 trillion per year, the equivalent to the GDP of the US and China combined.
“It’s critical that companies and policy-makers move faster to transition to a low carbon economy and more sustainable business models,” Giger said.
By African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Naomi Mackay