Impacts of climate change are highest global risks – report

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 18 January) – Climate change and its impacts pose the highest global risks, the World Economic Forum said in Global Risks Report released Thursday.

“The results of climate inaction are becoming increasingly clear. The accelerating pace of biodiversity loss is a particular concern. Species abundance is down by 60% since 1970,” the WEF report said.

“In the human food chain, biodiversity loss is affecting health and socioeconomic development, with implications for well-being, productivity, and even regional security,” it added.

It noted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s October analysis that humanity has at most 12 years to make the “drastic and unprecedented changes” needed to prevent average global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius, roughly 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is the limit to the amount of global temperature rise set by the international Paris Climate Agreement.

The WEF report said it “will require unprecedented action to drive decarbonization of agriculture, energy, industry and transport” to meet that goal, which “appears increasingly unlikely.”

Echoing an oft-repeated warning, the report said rapid urbanization coupled with ongoing effects of climate change “are making more people vulnerable to rising sea levels.”

“Two-thirds of the global population is expected to live in cities by 2050 and already an estimated 800 million people live in more than 570 coastal cities vulnerable to a sea-level rise of 0.5 meters by 2050,” it said.

It added that aside from concentrating people and property in areas where calamities would strike, urbanization leads to destruction of natural resources of resilience such as coastal mangroves and depletes groundwater reserves.

It estimated that 200 million people depend on coastal mangrove ecosystems to protect their livelihoods and food security from storm surges and rising sea levels.

The WEF report proposed three main strategies for adapting to rising sea-levels: (1) engineering projects to keep water out, (2) nature-based defenses, and (3) people-based strategies, such as moving households and businesses to safer ground or investing in social capital to make flood-risk communities more resilient.

But it emphasized that adaptation measures to address urban vulnerability to sea-level rise will require households, businesses and governments to avoid exacerbating dangers.

“There is little point putting new flood defenses in place, for example, if existing defenses are undermined through continued development of homes and businesses in coastal areas and on floodplains,” it said.

“Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe,” it further noted. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno / MindaNews)