Monday, January 20, 2020

Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss are Center Stage at WEF 2020

Last year climate change was a hot topic in Davos, but this year it is the overwhelmingly dominant concern. Along with biodiversity loss, climate change is considered to be the greatest threat the world faces. This is the finding of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risks Report 2020.

The warning comes as we teeter on the cusp of an apocalypse. We are not doing what we must to reduce emissions and business as usual will push us past tipping points from which we will not be able to recover. Despite a plethora of warnings emissions keep rising and the longer we wait to harder it will be and the more it will cost.

The risk report surveyed more than 1000 people, mostly from business backgrounds, with some input from academia and government. While academics have been at the forefront of efforts to acknowledge and respond to the climate and biodiversity crises, most businesses and governments have not been doing enough.

Although the business community and most governments have been steadily moving in the right direction, most have missed important opportunities to lead. In 2010, climate and environmental risks were altogether absent in the WEF risks report. The 2020 report squarely acknowledges "climate action failure". Other top risks mentioned in the report are biodiversity loss, extreme weather, human-made environmental disasters, and water crises. Water was identified as a social risk with implications for farming, however, as highlighted by droughts and related wildfires it is also a serious environmental risk. The report also includes infectious disease and we know that global warming will increase water-borne illnesses and diseases like Zika.

The extent of the human caused devastation is cataclysmic. Humans are commuting genocide against the natural world. UN biodiversity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema recently warned that humans risk living in an empty world. She is calling for definitive action on climate, deforestation and pollution.

Although it would be well warranted, the report does not heap blame on business and governments, it does however, single out global governance, and this is indeed one of the key failures that will need to be remedied if we are to have any hope of addressing these risks. Recognizing the risks we face and responding with a comprehensive sustainability focused policy is not just about humanism, it is about common sense self-interest. Businesses cannot afford to ignore climate risks. A cost-benefit analysis reveals the overwhelming logic of action versus inaction. A recent Global Energy report indicates that climate action offers trillions in savings and stellar ROI.

According to most assessments we have less than a decade to act and 2020 will be a make or break year. We know what we must do to combat the biodiversity crisis and climate change. All that remains is to summon the political will to actually do it.

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