WEF Global Risks Report 2017: Growing concerns for climate change-related risks
Each year since 2007, the World Economic Forum publishes a Report on Global Risks, highlighting the key areas that need urgent action such as economic growth and reform and rebuilding communities.
The new WEF Global Risks Report published in January 2017 shows the prominence of environmental concerns. Indeed, among the Top Ten of the risks in term of both Likelihood and Impact, five are directly related to climate change.
The Report acknowledges that global cooperation is needed on climate change due to the numerous environment-related risks it induces such as extreme weather events and water crises. Climate change-related risks also have a profound link with other risks such as conflict and migration.
The deteriorating commitment to global cooperation by states (already illustrated by the withdrawal of several States from the International Criminal Court for example) brings uncertainty as to the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The accord, adopted in December 2015, was supported by the Obama administration and has already been criticized by current President-elect of the United-State Donald Trump.
The risk is that an ineffective management of the “global commons” (oceans, atmosphere) will lead to changing weather patterns or water crises that will create and/or aggravate geopolitical and societal risks. Domestic or regional conflicts and involuntary migrations in geopolitically fragile areas are some of the consequences of a lack of global action on climate change.
Some progresses in climate change policy have been made with the Paris Agreement or the Montreal Convention’s Amendment on hydrofluorocarbons for example. However, the climate action is not rapid enough to cope with the numerous impacts of climate change on ecosystems and populations, as shown by the following facts:
• Greenhouse gas emissions are growing (by about 52 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year);
• 2016 was the warmest year on the instrumental record according to provisional analysis by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO);
• UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2016 stated that even if Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement are implemented by governments, global temperature will still warm by 3.0 to 3.2°C
• Record melt of Arctic sea ice in 2016 and unprecedented coral bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef (over 700 kilometers);
• Displacement of 21.5 million people associated with climate- or weather-related events each year since 2008, as estimated by UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Finally, the Report acknowledges the growing recognition “that the response to environmental risks cannot be delivered by international agencies and governments alone”. Indeed, new approaches seem to be required with wider “systems view” of the interconnected challenges and larger and more diverse stakeholders. However, taking a systemic approach implies considering the new risks stemming from climate action, such as the consequences of a transition to low-carbon on the national labor-market of numerous economies.
- Established in 1971, the World Economic Forum is an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation: https://www.weforum.org
- Now in its 12th edition, The Global Risks Report 2017 completes more than a decade of highlighting the most significant long-term risks worldwide, drawing on the perspectives of experts and global decision-makers: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2017
- “The full implementation of the unconditional Intended Nationally Determined Contributions is consistent with staying below an increase in temperature of 3.2°C”: The Emissions Gap Report 2016, A UNEP Synthesis Report: https://uneplive.unep.org/media/docs/theme/13/Emissions_Gap_Report_2016.pdf
- “2016 is set to break even the temperature records of 2015”: WMO (World Meteorological Organisation), Provisional WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2016, 14 November 2016: https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/provisional-wmo-statement-status-of-global-climate-2016
- “Scientists assess bleaching damage on Great Barrier Reef”, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Media release, 26 October 2016: https://www.coralcoe.org.au/media-releases/scientists-assess-bleaching-damage-on-great-barrier-reef
- “Sea level changes have been projected to lead to permanent displacements as coastal areas become uninhabitable” UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), “Warsaw International Mechanism Executive Committee (WIM ExCom) Work Plan Action Area 6 on Migration, Displacement and Human Mobility”. Submission of the Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility. http://www.unhcr.org/protection/environment/57459e3d7/warsaw-international-mechanismexecutive-committeewim-excom-work-plan.html