The planet Earth is currently facing a great crisis. The global catastrophic risk could cripple or completely destroy the modern civilization if necessary measures are not taken now. Some sources of such risks are natural (such as the impact of asteroids or supervolcanoes) while the majority of the risks are brought about by the human activities such as global warming, environmental degradation, and nuclear war. The World Economic Forum assesses the risks and publishes a Global Risk Report annually. The report highlights changes in the global risks outlook and identifies the global catastrophic risk. The report also explores strategies. The sources of data for the report include insurance companies, surveys, and interviews. The report aims to raise awareness on the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to mitigating the global risks. The five global risks threatening the well-being of our planet include;
5. Profound Social Instability
Social instability in the form of civil unrest, strikes, and demonstrations has a far reaching effect and unpredictable consequences on businesses and the country as a whole. According to the World Economic Forum, social instability, polarization, and income inequality are major trends in many countries around the globe. Social instability is closely connected to other top global risks such as unemployment, fiscal crisis, and failed governments. Economic disparity and political volatility is the main ingredient for social instability. Economic disparity is closely related to unemployment and underemployment. Youth unemployment remains higher than historical trends despite the younger generation attaining higher levels of education. Social unrest has surged along with unemployment with social unrest now at 10% higher than before the unemployment crisis according to the International Labor Organization. Protests in Greece, Ireland, and Spain have not only been caused by unemployment but also by corruption and inequality. Political reaction to economic stagnation leads to a less secure environment for business. Companies and other employers can play a significant role in reducing social instability by paying fair wages and creating a better work environment which addresses the unhappiness of the employees due to the loss of social equity.
4. Food Crisis
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, billions of people around the world are at risk of hunger. The food crisis is of greater interest now than ever before. The prices of food are ever increasing. The world’s food crisis is anything but naturally caused. Skewed agricultural policies, unsustainable agriculture, and inequitable trade have pushed the food system into dangerous levels and increased the gap between the influence and poor. Families and communities around the world have not adopted the modern technologies that would have enhanced production and eliminated the food crisis. Global hunger can be traced back to 30 years ago before the media focused on it. The international organization did not foresee the crisis as food prices were still on steady. The displacement of the food crops by fuel crop in 2006 signified the beginning of food shortage. The global food crisis has been caused by poor weather patterns, low grain reserves, high oil prices, increasing meat consumption, speculation, and diversion of cereals to agrofuel. Several measures have been put in place to reverse the food crisis including supporting domestic production, halting agrofuel expansion, democratizing food system, and promoting a return to smallholder farming.
3. Extreme Weather Events
Global warming has triggered other changes in the climate and weather patterns. Human-induced climate changes have increased the number and strengthen some of the extreme weather events over the last 50 years. Extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and tornadoes have affected different parts of the world leading to several deaths, displacement of people, and destruction of properties worth billions of dollars. Drought is a well-known factor contributing to global hunger and food crisis. Drought is characterized by the prolonged water shortage and can last for months or even years, having a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture. The drought has directly influenced the cost of food production and lowered energy production. Millions of people in Africa and Asia are currently in need of relief due to the effects of drought. Both wildlife and domestic animals are also affected by widespread drought. Decades of drought has also influenced conflicts such as in Sudan and Chad. Flooding and tornadoes are normal occurrences in some parts of the world. In Haiti, floods have led to the loss of lives and property including buildings. Flooding is caused by heavy storms, heavy downpour, and hurricanes. Other extreme weather conditions include extreme temperatures and climate change.
2. Failure Of Climate Change Mitigation And Adaptation
Climate change is a significant driver of extreme weather events. Climate change continues to have an impact on the environment and the people. The effects of climate change are locked in a foreseeable future due to the long-term effects of greenhouse gasses. Climate change related risks have moved from hypothetical to certain because of lack of sufficient actions to mitigate them. The extent of climate change and the impact are dependent on the actions that are taken. Reducing greenhouse gas emission is a necessary step towards minimizing or eliminating the climate impact such as extreme weather events. The failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change is an impactful risk to for the future generation. Climate change has a direct effect on water shortage and extreme weather events. Extreme weather has led to economic and social consequences. Extreme weather events are expected to take place more frequently and at a higher magnitude than before due to failure in the mitigation and adaptation of climate change.
1. Water Crisis
Water is a vital resource around the world. The health of a community is defined by the quantity and quality of water at its disposal. The demand for clean and safe water outweighs the supply leading to the water crisis. Most of the unsafe water sources are located in remote and rural areas, leading to a high mortality rate from preventable water-borne diseases. Families also spend most of their income in seeking health services. Women and children walk for long distance and for hours to collect water hence missing out on important income-generating activities. Children are also missing school because they have to fetch water or they are sick from water-borne diseases. In Africa, over 332 million people are without access to water. The number is likely to grow if necessary measure are not taken to mitigate the ongoing drought and availability of safe water. Water crisis is responsible for an annual loss of over $24 billion as well as the loss of lives. A child dies every minute due to either lack of water or water-borne disease. World Health Organization and other international agencies have warned that the crisis will persist if the governments do not support the mitigation efforts.