Climate change dominates top global risks in 2020

Climate change is linked to all of the most likely long-term risks facing humanity during the next decade, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has warned for the first time.

After gathering views from 750 decision-makers and experts across the world, the WEF found that extreme weather events are the most pressing risk in terms of likelihood. Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, major natural disasters, ecosystem collapse and manmade environmental catastrophes complete the top five.

In the 15 years that the WEF has published its annual risks report, this is the only time that all top five threats identified have been linked to the environment.

Economic confrontations and political polarisation are also expected to rise in 2020, which the researchers said would prove “catastrophic” for addressing climate change and biodiversity loss.

“The political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning,” said WEF president Borge Brende. “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.”

The WEF’s Global Risks Report 2020 also lists ecosystem collapse and climate change mitigation and adaptation failure among the top five risks in terms of severity during the next decade.

This comes as high-profile events such as the Australian wildfires increase public awareness around the interconnectedness of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Peter Giger, group chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group, warned that ecosystems provide environmental and economic benefits estimated at $33trn – equivalent to the GDP of the US and China combined.

“We are already seeing companies destroyed by failing to align their strategies to shifts in policy and customer preferences,” he continued. “It’s critical that companies move faster to transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Despite slow progress by some, the report highlights how scientific advances now allow climate risks to be modelled with greater accuracy and incorporated into business plans. It calls for holistic “systems-level thinking” to tackle rising inequality, gaps in technological governance, healthcare challenges and looming geopolitical and environmental risks.

“Transitionary risks are real, and everyone must play their part to mitigate them,” Giger said. “It’s not just an economic imperative, it is simply the right thing to do.”

Read more of the Global Risks Report 2020 here:


Picture Credit | Getty Images
Back to Top