World Economic Forum report calls climate most pressing concern facing humanity

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Jan. 11 (UPI) — Failure to contain the climate crisis has become the greatest threat to life on Earth, with environmental concerns likely to become the most pressing issue facing humanity over the next decade, according to a global risk report released Wednesday by the World Economic Forum.

The international lobbying organization released the report ahead of its annual meeting next week in Davos, Switzerland, where more than a thousand experts from around the world — including lawmakers, tech industry leaders and highly touted academicians — are expected to convene.

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Each has shared insights into the current level of risks confronting mankind, and how every nation could limit peril in a wide range of categories — including natural disasters and extreme weather events, wars, cybercrime, terrorist attacks, and pandemic, to name a few.

“We asked experts from across the World Economic Forum for their insights into how technology, circular economy innovation, resources and energy, climate adaptation and mitigation, cybersecurity and the health sector could shift paradigms to shore up defenses and help turn things around for growth and resilience in 2023,” the report says while warning that time was running out to protect the environment.

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In the report, WEF calls for scaling up renewable energy, eliminating carbon emissions, reforming world oil markets, transitioning to clean power generation, and improving energy efficiency as nearly 3.6 billion people worldwide were increasingly vulnerable to climate impacts.

“The clock is ticking and major changes are required immediately,” the report says. “Investment, transition and deployment on a large scale must take place by 2030 in a manner perhaps unparalleled by any other global transformation.”

Many persistent economic factors like inflation, high energy costs, and supply chain issues have exacerbated the climate crisis in recent years as nations have shifted attention away from the environment and toward societal, technological, and geopolitical concerns, the study says.

“Integrated and immediate mitigation is more critical as we face some of the most difficult geoeconomic conditions in a generation, where we see a shift to a low-investment, low-growth, low-cooperation era, that is in danger of eroding resilience and accelerating the other risks we face,” the report says while describing 2023 as the “year of the polycrisis, where risks are more interdependent and reciprocally damaging than ever.”

The study also predicts the current inflation crisis to become completely overshadowed by environmental concerns by the end of the next decade.

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“In the face of multiple crises, those who qualify as vulnerable are rapidly expanding, in rich and poor countries alike,” said WEF Managing Director Saadia Zahidi. “Climate and human development must be at the core of concerns of global leaders, even as they battle current crises. Cooperation is the only way forward.”

To meet the current challenge, the Forum plans to launch efforts in respective communities around the world, introducing awareness campaigns, computing platforms and other innovative technologies that would serve to manage ongoing risk.

“We need to support emerging innovators,” the report says. “UpLink is an example of a platform that is enabling system disruptors and start-ups to bring in new innovative solutions and technology that shifts paradigms.”

As part of the effort, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has partnered with the World Economic Forum and First Movers Coalition, which have enlisted several dozen industry giants around the world, including those in aluminum, aviation, cement, concrete, shipping, steel, trucking and carbon dioxide removal technologies.

About $12 billion is at stake for companies that advance low-carbon technologies of the future.

WEF’s representatives will also seek to join hands with local governments around the world to address the challenges ahead.

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“A heightened stakeholder focus on the dual crises of climate and the economy in 2023 requires greater public and private sector cooperation at the global level to first enable the interoperability and flow of data across borders and between companies to achieve sustainability targets and unlock economic opportunity, and second, to invest in digital trust as a means to fully harness the benefit from innovation and the global digital economy,” the report says.

“Doing so will require, among other things, the strengthening of public and private institutions against cyber-attacks to protect privacy. Rather than simply waiting for regulators to set the guardrails, businesses must move beyond compliance and engrain responsible and human-centered technology principles into their DNA.”

Aside from climate action, the report also looked at ways to fix global health and address other pressing issues facing the world, including cybersecurity, mineral resource scarcity, food shortages, and economic innovation.

Wednesday’s report echoed other alarming climate concerns raised in recent weeks.

New research published last week in the journal Science predicts greater fallout from global warming, with nearly 50% of the Earth’s natural ice expected to dissolve by the year 2100.

The latest studies on the environment come amid increasing efforts to mitigate climate concerns, however, progress has been slow to take shape as no governing body has any real power to enforce several world climate accords adopted since 2015.

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Last month, nearly 200 countries reached a landmark agreement at the COP15 biodiversity summit in an effort to protect nature, endangered species and other critical resources for the next decade.

The newly approved Global Biodiversity Framework sets a path for each country, by 2030, to designate 30% of land that would remain undeveloped in an effort to support nature and the environment.

If fully implemented, the plan would hold major implications for farming, business supply chains and Indigenous populations around the world as countries step up efforts to safeguard the environment.