Seven out of the top ten 2015 global risks – those with the highest impact and likelihood of occurring – are sustainability issues. This was the finding of the tenth annual World Economic Forum Global Risks 2015 report.
The report is based on the “Global Risks Perception Survey” given to nearly 900 members of the World Economic Forum. It includes professionals from various fields of expertise and its goal is to avert the potential disasters it predicts. Respondents identified large-scale threats and mapped out the interconnected issues that influence them. The report aggregates the results into 28 global risks, in 5 categories of risk: economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal, and technological.
The key sustainability-related risks are:
- Water crises
- Failure of climate-change adaptation
- Unemployment or underemployment
- Asset bubble
- Fiscal crises
- Profound social instability
- Food crises
Here’s a look at the WEF’s full assessment:
One of the most sobering findings shows that all of the environmental risks are increasing in likelihood compared to last year, yet there’s relatively little concern over it. Even though awareness is up, there’s a lack of strong action to address it. Many still adopt a short-term risk-management approach and assume things will go back to normal after a major crisis. This neglects the complexity of the issues and the impacts of long-term environmental degradation. It is clear that just reacting to the symptoms, rather than confronting the root of the problem, will fall short.
The WEF report provides an in depth discussion on how seemingly unrelated issues have extended and indirect impacts that exacerbate or instigate other risks. This year’s report also provided some good examples of resilient responses to related extreme weather risks. Common themes included local support, broad collaboration, and strong feedback systems to build site-specific plans.
The report highlights high hopes for the UN Climate Change summit in Paris at the end of this year. They say it’ll either jump start change or be a missed opportunity to diverge from narrow short-term goals.
Read the full report here.