The present levels of ecological degradation will substantially worsen, thereby intensifying a range of social challenges, including malnutrition, forced migration and illness in the coming days if concerted international action is not taken up, according to the latest Ecological Threat Report(ETR) by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
The third edition of ETR says that current conflicts would escalate and multiply that could lead to further global insecurity.
Highlighting the gravity of the situation, the report pointed out that 90 per cent of the 20 least peaceful countries face at least one catastrophic ecological threat, while 80 per cent have low societal resilience. “Ten of the twelve countries with the highest ecological threat rating, in all four domains, currently suffer from conflict deaths, while 11 of these countries have moderate to high ratings for intensity of internal conflict,” the report said.
ECOLOGICAL THREAT REPORT; HOTSPOTS
The 2022 ETR identified 27 hotspot countries that face catastrophic ecological threats, while also having the lowest levels of societal resilience. These countries are home to 768 million people. They are mainly clustered in two regions:
• Two-thirds of hotspot countries are in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Seven of the eight-hotspot countries with the highest risk are in SSA. These are Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda. The eighth country is Yemen.
• Countries in MENA account for another 18.5 per cent of hotspot countries.
ECOLOGICAL THREAT REPORT; FOOD STRESS
The ETR report points out that 41 countries faced the most extreme food insecurity, with 37 of them in SSA. “The number of undernourished people has steadily increased since 2017, rising by 35 per cent, to over 750 million in 2021. Ninety-two per cent of these people live in low or very low peace countries. Compounding an already existing trend, food insecurity was boosted by dramatic increases in food prices driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by the Russia- Ukraine War,” the report said.
It also mentioned that Food Price Index increased by 50 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic. Moreover, the report said that an additional area of concern for many countries is their dependency on food imports from conflict-affected countries. “This puts them at higher risk of food insecurity, a trend highlighted by the Russia-Ukraine War,” the ETR said. .
ECOLOGICAL THREAT REPORT; WATER STRESS
More than 1.4 billion people in 83 countries face extreme water stress. All but one of the 52 countries in SSA is affected by extreme water stress, the report said. “Several European countries are projected to have serious water stress by 2040, including Greece, Italy, Netherlands, and Portugal,” said the ETR.
Stating that water conflicts are increasing, the report said that they have tripled in number between 2000 and 2019. “The countries with the most water related conflicts over the last two decades were Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan, all very low peace countries. International rights to water are becoming increasingly contentious, as more of the great rivers of the world are dammed, affecting downstream flows,” the report said.
ECOLOGICAL THREAT REPORT; DISPLACEMENT
In 2021, the countries that experienced the highest levels of internal displacement from conflict and natural disasters included Syria, Ethiopia, DRC, Afghanistan and South Sudan. The Climate Security Nexus is likely to see larger refugee flows from forced migration, impacting both source and recipient countries.
The cyclic relationship between ecological degradation, societal resilience and conflict cannot be overemphasised. It is a vicious cycle whereby degradation of resources leads to conflict, which further degrades the resources. Large increases in population only compound the situation. The total population of the 40 least peaceful countries is projected to increase by 1.3 billion by 2050, representing 49.5 per cent of the world’s population. These countries also face the worst ecological threats, with the SSA population expected to increase by 95 per cent by 2050.
ECOLOGICAL THREAT REPORT; CONCERN
The report points out that the number of people globally who are concerned about the future effects of climate change have decreased by 1.5 per cent to 48.7 per cent, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In China, the world’s largest polluter, only 20.1 per cent of citizens believed climate change was a major concern, a fall of three per cent since 2019, one of the lowest country scores. The third largest polluter, India, only had 38.8 per cent of its citizens’ express major concern. The US recorded slightly more concern than the global average at 51.5 per cent. The countries that will be most affected by climate change, mainly in Africa, recorded some of the lowest scores and were more concerned with terrorism, conflict, crime and economic security.
Founder and Executive Chairman of IEP Steve Killelea said; ““As we approach COP27, this report is a timely reminder that the costs of many of the existing ecological challenges will only be amplified by climate change. The world’s current approach to the countries suffering the worst climate-related issues is not working; ecological threats are increasing and have systemic causes that require systemic solutions.
Governments and international agencies must invest in building long-term resilience to avert future ecological destruction, forced migration and conflict. The Russia-Ukraine war highlights the effects of conflict on forced migration, with 12 – 14 million Ukrainians currently displaced in neighbouring countries. Developmental programmes should focus on micro enterprises, which capture water, improve agriculture and on value-added manufacturing. This will improve the lives of the people who are suffering the most.”
The report covered over 3,638 sub-national administrative districts, or 99.99 per cent of the world’s population, assessing threats relating to food risk, water risk, rapid population growth and natural disasters.