WEF warns of climate-related threats, misinformation and lack of corporate urgency

Climate-related threats, misinformation and a distinct lack of corporate urgency are some of the biggest challenges facing the global community, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Global Risks Report 2024 – which saw the WEF survey almost 1,500 experts on the biggest issues facing the world now and in the future – assesses both how likely a risk is and the significance of its impact.

Released in the run-up to next week’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland, the report has revealed that some of the biggest short-term risks (defined as taking place over the coming two years) stem from a world “plagued by a duo of dangerous crises: climate and conflict”. It adds that these are set against a backdrop of “rapidly accelerating technological change and economic uncertainty”.

Climate-related risks account for 5 of the top 10 global threats in 2034, as we approach or reach the climate ‘tipping point’

The WEF spoke to global experts from across academia, business, government, the international community and civil society to gather the information, which revealed that climate-related threats remain a dominant theme throughout.

While misinformation and disinformation were the most pressing short-term priority; in the longer term, climate-related threats dominated the top 10 risks global populations will face.

The risk posed by extreme weather events tops the 2034 list as nations remain unprepared for the “triggering of long-term, potentially irreversible and self-perpetuating changes to select planetary systems [which] could be passed at or before 1.5C of global warming, currently anticipated to be reached by the early 2030s”.

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While climate-related threats scored highly across the board, there was less of a united front from corporate experts and those working across the private sector.

These respondents recognised that the risks are real and will happen over the next decade, but were less likely to prioritise environmental risks in the short-term than those working in policymaking and civil society.

While the threat of extreme weather is widely acknowledged both now and for the future, there was also some disagreement surrounding the need to take action urgently in order to mitigate other climate-related risks such as the loss of biodiversity and collapsing ecosystems.

Concern about these risks was significantly higher among younger respondents, prompting fears that lower-level climate related action might be delayed beyond the point at which it is useful.

The report also identifies the risk of a number of general elections – including in the UK and the US – adding to the risk of misinformation over the next two years, with “foreign and domestic actors alike” expected to “leverage misinformation and disinformation to widen societal and political divides”.

To address these particular concerns, cross-border collaboration and ‘ Rebuilding Trust’ will be a key focus at next week’s annual summit, which will host hundreds of policymakers and business leaders coming together with what it describes as a “back to basics” spirit.

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