Climate change ‘overtakes pandemics as the biggest global concern’
Failure to act on climate change has overtaken infectious diseases as the top concern of global experts, as the Cop 26 conference in Glasgow and major protest movements have brought the issue to center stage.
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual survey of global risks found that three environmental risks – failed climate action, extreme weather and loss of biodiversity – were what experts were most worried about.
The world’s insufficient efforts to tackle climate change topped the list of concerns in early 2020, before the pandemic hit.
It was also the biggest concern in 2016, in a survey shortly after the vital Paris Agreement talks.
Between 2017 and 2019, weapons of mass destruction were the biggest concern of experts surveyed as North Korea ramped up its nuclear program.
These worries have completely disappeared from the top 10 list this year.
“The climate crisis remains the greatest long-term threat to humanity,” said Peter Giger, chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group.
“Failure to act on climate change could reduce global GDP by a sixth and the commitments made at COP26 are still not enough to achieve the 1.5°C target.
“It’s not too late for governments and businesses to act on the risks they face and drive an innovative, determined and inclusive transition that protects economies and people.”
But British experts were much more concerned about the failure of cybersecurity, and climate change was not among the top five concerns of British respondents.
The annual report also showed signs of the pandemic.
Over 84% of respondents said they were worried or concerned about the outlook for the world.
They said social cohesion and livelihood crises have deteriorated the most since the start of the pandemic, while saying it has also had a big impact on climate action, mental health and weather. extremes.
The report found that only 3.7% of respondents were optimistic about the outlook for the world.
The WEF, which postponed its annual Davos conference to the summer due to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, said the pandemic had widened the gap between rich and poor countries, and the technological divide.
He warned of “vaccine inequality” that is causing uneven economic recoveries around the world and risks stoking social and geopolitical tensions, while adding that 3.6 billion people still do not have sufficient access to Internet.
“Health and economic disruptions are deepening social divides,” said Saadia Zahidi, chief executive of the WEF.
“This creates tension at a time when collaboration within societies and within the international community will be fundamental to ensuring a more uniform and faster global recovery.
“Global leaders must come together and take a coordinated, multi-stakeholder approach to address relentless global challenges and build resilience before the next crisis.”
The survey was largely completed by people in Europe, where 44% of respondents are from.
Some 41% of respondents were from the business world, while others came from academia, government and charities, among others.
Of the respondents, 64% were male and respondents were more likely to be in their 40s or 50s.
They represented several different areas of expertise, with economists being the most represented.