The ravages caused by climate change and social inequality, which increased with the pandemic, are the main risks facing humanity ten years from now, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) that also warns of failures in cybersecurity and the debt crisis.
The seventeenth report of the institution that organizes the Davos Forum concludes after surveying a thousand experts around the world that environmental and social risks are the main concern in the short term, while in the long term they are the first ones that have a most critical importance.
All this conforms to predictions “quite pessimistic, in which 84% of those surveyed said they were concerned about the future of the planet, while only 4% were optimistic,” the managing director of the WEF highlighted when presenting the report at a press conference.
In the short term (two years), 31% of those surveyed considered that the greatest risk to humans is constituted by extreme weather events, 30% by the employment and livelihood crisis.More than 25% warned about dangers such as deterioration of mental health, infectious diseases, social cohesion or failure in climate action.
However, in the longer term, 10 years, experts clearly point to environmental problems as the great challenge for the planet:42% fear failure in the fight against climate change, 32% of climatic disasters (floods, droughts, fires …), 27% of the loss of biodiversity and 23% of a crisis of natural resources.
A Planet «On Fire»
“Our planet is burning and we have to face this problem”, warned the president of the WEF, BorgeBrende, while the risk director of Zurich Insurance Group, Peter Giger, stressed in the presentation that “not acting in the face of climate change can reduce world GDP by one sixth”.
The report also warns against a disorderly climate transition that “could further distance countries and divide societies”, as, for example, the “accelerated abandonment” of sectors with high carbon dioxide emissions can trigger economic volatility and aggravate unemployment.
At the social level, the report predicts that 51 million more people than before the pandemic will live in conditions of extreme poverty “with the risk of growing polarization and social resentment” in a world that is expected to grow by 2024 a year. 2.3% less than it would have done without a pandemic.
“Tensions are building at a time when collaboration between societies and the international community would be essential to ensure a smoother and faster global recovery,” added the report calling for a more coordinated and multilateral approach from world leaders to prevent thiscrisis.
Climate Change + Inequality = Migration
Climate change and social inequality are factors that increase migration, and in this sense the report recalls that there was a record number of 34 million people displaced from their country in 2020, while in 2021 4,500 people died on these migration routes.
Millions of people are forced to leave their homes in search of a better future, but at the same time the pandemic and economic protectionism put obstacles to the entry of these migrants, while some governments use this flow for political purposes.
The experts surveyed consider cybersecurity problems primarily a short-term risk, after a year 2021 in which attacks with malicious programs (malware) and hijacking (ransomware) increased by 358% and 435%, respectively.
“Cyber threats are increasing faster than our ability to eradicate them,” acknowledged Carolina Klint, from the risk management firm Marsh, who also participated in the preparation of the report.
The document warns about “adverse technological advances” as another possible long-term risk, and in this sense it is indicated, for example, that space exploration, which has intensified in recent years with the entry of various companies in this field, raises dangers.
The increasing militarization of that space race is one of them, and also the increased risk of collisions that could lead to a proliferation of space debris and affect orbits that host key systems on Earth or raise geopolitical tensions.
“Our planet is literally surrounded by a junk dump that includes destroyed rockets, empty fuel tanks or broken satellites, which threaten global communications and our ambitions in space,” Klint warned.
In dealing with these risks, experts believe that the international community is responding well in matters such as the fight against international crime or the control of weapons of mass destruction.
However, they are more doubtful about the way in which challenges such as artificial intelligence, care for migrants and refugees, or the fight against cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns are being addressed.