In part two of our blog series focusing on the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Risks Report, we look at Global Risks 2033: Tomorrow’s Catastrophes and how some of these emergent risks can be reduced by collective action today.
In part one of this blog series, we examined the most significant global risks for 2023, which were chosen by the 2022-2023 Global Risks Perceptions Survey (GRPS). The top five were Energy supply crisis, Cost-of living crisis, Rising inflation, Food supply crisis, and Cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. Outside of the top five, but of particular concern included Failure to meet net zero targets, Weaponisation of economic policy, Weakening of human rights, A debt crisis, and Failure of non-food supply chains.
The world in 2033
According to the GRPS findings, the global risks landscape in the longer term is primarily characterised by worsening environmental risks (see Global risks ranking below). Across the six risk domains, which include Economic, Environmental, Geopolitical, Societal, and Technological, climate and nature risks are projected to be the most severe among the top 10 risks that are expected to occur in the next decade. The GRPS report identifies Failure to mitigate climate change and Failure of climate change adaptation as distinct risks, both ranking as the most severe risks on a global scale. These are followed by Natural disasters and extreme weather events and Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.
Global risks ranked by severity over the long term (10 years)
- Failure to mitigate climate change
- Failure of climate change adaptation
- Natural disasters and extreme weather events
- Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
- Large-scale involuntary migration
- Natural resource crisis
- Erosion of social cohesion and societal polarisation
- Widespread cybercrime and cyber insecurity
- Geoeconomic confrontation
- Large-scale environmental damage incidents
Risks that are growing in severity include biodiversity loss, misinformation, and digital inequality. Social risks such as severe mental health deterioration and lack of public infrastructure are also worsening, but economic risks such as a prolonged economic downturn are predicted to fall slightly.
Additionally, this year, five new or rapidly accelerating risk clusters are emerging in the five risk domains, which could become tomorrow’s crisis.
- Natural ecosystems: Risks to our environment, threatening valuable natural resources such as water, forests, and living organisms due to the negative impacts of climate change, and could go past a point of no return
- Human health: Chronic risks are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a strain on healthcare systems and social, economic, and health aftereffects.
- Human security: A reversal in demilitarisation and emerging technologies make nuclear-armed states vulnerable to multi-domain conflicts and new weapons.
- Digital rights: There is a potential erosion of digital autonomy and privacy, leading to data and cyber insecurity.
- Economic stability: Growing debt crises and a global reckoning on debt may lead to financial contagion and collapse of social services, leading to social distress.
Acting today: environmental
To avoid tipping points, a multifaceted approach is needed that includes conservation, transforming the food system, nature-positive climate mitigation strategies, and changes to consumption and production patterns. Upgraded governance structures and better data and tools are necessary to capture interdependencies of food, climate, energy, and ecosystems.
Positive developments such as the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures and the Montreal-Kunming agreement show initial signs of a shift towards a focus on nature conservation and sustainability, but there is still a need for action to align incentives and upgrade governance structures. While the global community recognises the risks associated with nature loss, food production, energy generation, and climate change cannot be fully mitigated in isolation, so public and private sector action is needed.
Finally, prioritising biodiversity and promoting community resilience can help mitigate climate change. Certain land management practices such as afforestation, micro-irrigation, and agroforestry are cost-effective ways to boost resilience to extreme weather. Marine biodiversity protection and restoration, such as mangrove systems, can also provide food security and support local livelihoods. These practices can also benefit the environment by enhancing carbon sequestration and climate regulation, potentially leading to revenue streams for developing nations through carbon credits. Integrating traditional knowledge into food production and cultivation can also provide socioeconomic and environmental benefits.
In the final installment of this blog series, we offer an overview of the Report’s final chapters, Resource rivalries: Four emerging futures and Conclusion: is preparedness possible?
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IMAGE: The Great Barrier Reef’s world heritage status recognises its incredible diversity of species and habitats. Conserving the Reef’s biodiversity is essential. Used under licence from shutterstock.com
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A participant in the UN Global Compact, CourtHeath Consulting seeks to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the Global Compact with business and government organisations in Victoria.
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