From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):
Environmental risks, steadily rising in importance, are recognized as authentic and relentless obstacles to peace, wealth, and health, according to the World Economic Forum’s global risk report, an annual survey of business, academic, and political leaders.
The report analyzes the strength and likelihood of 30 risks and 13 trends that shape global society. Four of the five environmental risks in the report, all related to climate change and extreme weather, are judged to be large impact and high likelihood threats.
Water crises, deemed a “societal risk” because of their broad reach, ranked third in the high-impact category, the third consecutive year in the top three. Harsh droughts last year in India, South Africa, and Vietnam slashed farm production and cut hydropower generation. Meanwhile, depletion of India’s groundwater reserves could squeeze long-term economic growth and flush rural residents into already jammed cities. These and other environmental threats to social well-being “are more prominent than ever,” the report states.
“Over the course of the past decade, a cluster of environment-related risks — notably extreme weather events and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as water crises — has emerged as a consistently central feature of the risk landscape, strongly interconnected with many other risks, such as conflict and migration,” according to the report.
Environmental threats, the report notes, are occurring in a world being pulled in two: toward greater income inequality and political polarization, both of which have the potential to undermine the collective action required to address water and climate challenges.
The rise of environmental risk is a notable development in the report’s 12-year history, says Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz, head of competitiveness and risk at the World Economic Forum. Oil shocks and volatile asset prices, both high-level concerns in the report’s early years, have been replaced at the top by water crises and extreme weather.