Emerging Global Risk: Failure to Adapt to Climate Change

Author: Joyce Coffee

While the world still smarts from the global recession, experts now identify climate change risks as bigger threats to our stability than economic ones.   The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk 2015 Report ranks failure to adapt to climate change as fifth among 28 risks that could harm countries or industries, and seventh in terms that it could occur within the next 10 years. The WEF defines the inability to adapt to climate change as governments and businesses failing to enforce or enact measures that protect populations and help businesses to transition from climate change impacts.

Although warnings of potential environmental catastrophes grow more persistent, few survey respondents see much progress in climate change adaptation and in mitigating other environmental risks. The 10 WEF Global Risks Reports, taken as a whole, illustrate:

  • The rising likelihood of storms and cyclones, flooding, biodiversity loss and climate change
  • The escalating impacts of extreme weather events.

This year, water crises – a risk predominantly dependent on climate dynamics – tops global risk impacts, above the spread of infectious diseases and weapons of mass destruction.

Reflecting the perspectives of 900 experts and global decision-makers, the annual report also provides a glimpse of other perils of climate change that could exacerbate should society fail to adapt adequately. Among them: water and food crises and extreme weather events. Further, global trends of urbanization, environmental degradation and weakening of international governance link to adaptation failure. These insights illuminate the need for greater leadership engagement to implement more robust measures for climate change adaptation.

Crucial questions emerge for government, business and civil society. Does climate change impact society, economics, geopolitics and technology? How should priorities be set? How effective are current adaptation policies and practices? Which areas need special attention?

Obviously, it’s time to gather some answers.