As the world enters the third year of COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis remains the biggest long-term threat facing humanity, according to the 2022 Global Risks Report.
The report by the World Economic Forum said that environmental risks are perceived to be the five most critical long-term threats to the world as well as the most potentially damaging to people and planet, with “climate action failure”, “extreme weather”, and “biodiversity loss” ranking as the top three most severe risks. Respondents also signalled “debt crises” and “geo-economics confrontations” as among the most severe risks over the next 10 years. disorderly climate transition characterized by divergent trajectories worldwide and across sectors will further drive apart countries and bifurcate societies, creating barriers to cooperation.
“Given the complexities of technological, economic and societal change at this scale, and the insufficient nature of current commitments, it is likely that any transition that achieves the net zero goal by 2050 will be disorderly,” the report said.
The report also mentions that the respondents to the GRPS perceive societal risks in the form of “social cohesion erosion”, “livelihood crises” and “mental health deterioration”—as those that have worsened the most since the pandemic began. Only 16 per cent of respondents feel positive and optimistic about the outlook for the world, and just 11 per cent believe the global recovery will accelerate.
Next in line is the Technological risks such as “digital inequality” and cyber security failure”, which are other critical short- and medium-term threats to the world according to GRPS respondents. “Artificial intelligence”, “space exploitation”, “cross-border cyberattacks and misinformation” and “migration and refugees” are the areas where most respondents believe the current state of risk mitigation efforts fall short of the challenge-that is, efforts are “not started” or in “early development”. Meanwhile, for “trade facilitation”, “international crime” and “weapons of mass destruction”, large majorities perceived risk mitigation efforts to be “established” or “effective”.
DIVERGENT ECONOMIC RECOVERY
With another spike in COVID-19 cases towards the end of 2021, the pandemic continues to stifle countries’ ability to facilitate a sustained recovery. The economic fallout from the pandemic is compounding with labour market imbalances, protectionism, and widening digital, education and skills gaps that risk splitting the world into divergent trajectories. In some countries, rapid vaccine rollout, successful digital transformations and new growth opportunities could mean a return to pre-pandemic trends in the short term and the possibility of a more resilient outlook over a longer horizon. Yet many other countries will be held back by low rates of vaccination, continued acute stress on health systems, digital divides and stagnant job markets.
MOBILITY RISK COMPOUNDING GLOBAL INSECURITY
Growing insecurity resulting from economic hardship, intensifying impacts of climate change and political instability are already forcing millions to leave their homes in search of a better future abroad. “Involuntary migration” is a top long-term concern for GRPS respondents, while 60% of them see “migration and refugees” as an area where international mitigation efforts have “not started” or are in “early development”