Yearly, experts and analysts work together to compile the leading risks and threats to the world in a Global Risks Report. Published by the World Economic Forum, the 13th edition of the report for 2018 revealed some stunning pronouncements. Three out of the top 5 risks had to do with the impact of volatile weather and climate on societies.
Here is their ranking of the risks most likely to occur in the next 10 years:
- Extreme weather events
- Natural disasters
- Cyber attacks
- Data fraud or theft
- Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
What extreme weather means for the US and the world
Over 2017, the United States experienced several record-breaking weather periods. According to EPA.gov, cyclone activity has increased over the past 20 years in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Average temperatures have risen across the US continuously since 1901. And the last 30 years has seen an acceleration of this rate.
Extreme weather conditions have the power to disrupt economies and destabilize societies. Weather events such as hurricanes can bring on water crises through pollution of water filtering systems. As well as economic loss through houses and businesses damaged due to storms. WEF points to Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria to show how weather events can lead to disruption of infrastructure.
Food supply and farming communities across the US and the globe have been affected due to weather changes. Farmers have come up with solutions such as no till planter attachments and other soil conservation methods. But not enough farmers are embracing this approach.
Additionally, experts warn that growing seasons and types of crops that can be farmed will change across the US. This then becomes a major way in which extreme weather conditions can impact food supply in the US and around the world.
How rising temperatures are connected to extreme weather
Climatologists believe that rising temperatures are supercharging extreme weather conditions. It is easy to see the connection when it comes to drought and heat waves. Extreme heat also makes for ideal conditions for wildfires. Of which 2017 has seen plenty. But what of other abnormal weather patterns?
National Geographic explains that as oceans warm, they evaporate more water into the air, which then results in heavy rainfall. And can further lead to flooding in areas where floods were not a previous problem. This extra moisture in the air also intensifies the impact of hurricane season. With increased water in the air, hurricanes become more destructive as they bring with it unprecedented rainfall.
So what causes rising temperatures? And how can we reduce the risk that WEF reports is in store for 2018?
It is now the common consensus of scientists that rising temperatures are due to CO2 emissions by human activity. Also called greenhouse gasses, these emissions come from just about everything we do on this planet. From traveling in a car, to factory production, to flipping on a light, or using electricity in one’s house.
Therefore, reducing CO2 emissions is the key to protecting societies from this risk. The Paris Agreement is one such way world leaders and countries are making climate change a priority. Those who signed the accord agreed to reduce their country’s CO2 emissions. And to regularly seek for ways to continue to do so.
The Paris Agreement requires participating countries to report their progress. Countries also have a stated united goal of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The actions they take toward this end may differ. But conserving eco systems and natural forests is a well-recognized way of limiting climate change. And many countries have begun to make plans along these lines.
The countries who have signed have all taken a notable step forward. But the WEF warns that efforts to curb climate change could be disrupted by political factors.
In the meantime, businesses can take steps to limit CO2 emissions by doing any of the following:
- Use energy-saving materials and recycled products in one’s business and office.
- When purchasing new materials, choose products that are biodegradable or that have been rated as energy saving.
- Avoid travel by air and use alternative methods to communicate with overseas partners.
- Reduce fuel use of employees by allowing for work at home days or organizing carpooling.
- Keep track of energy consumption and reward the company when record lows are achieved.