The Guardian
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‘Climate change now biggest global threats’


The impacts of climate change are not being felt uniformly around the world, says new UN report.

The report, however identified countries in the tropics as among the most affected.

Titled, the World Social Report 2020, it states that climate change has made the world’s poorest countries poorer, and if left unaddressed, could cause millions of people to fall into poverty during the next 10 years.

The report said, Climate change is also making things worse for the next generation with the impacts likely to reduce job opportunities, especially in the hardest hit countries.

It warns, “Just as climate change can increase inequality, so can the policies designed to counter its effects. As countries take climate action, it will be important to protect low-income households. Growing inequality in both developing and developed countries could exacerbate divisions and slow economic and social development.

Over two thirds of the world’s population today live in countries where inequality has grown, and inequality is rising again even in some of the countries that have seen inequality decline in recent decades, such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

The report produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, states that highly unequal societies are less effective at reducing poverty, grow more slowly, make it more difficult for people to break out of the cycle of poverty, and close the door to economic and social advancement.

It provides evidence showing that technological innovation, climate change, urbanisation and international migration are affecting inequality trends.

The Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres who wrote the forward said “The World Social Report 2020 sends a clear message: the future course of these complex challenges is not irreversible. Technological change, migration, urbanisation and even the climate crisis can be harnessed for a more equitable and sustainable world, or they can be left to further divide us.”

The Report established that the extraordinary economic growth over the last several decades has failed to close the deep divides within and across countries.

Disparities between and within countries, it declared, will inevitably drive people to migrate.

Similarly, global risk perceptions are fast shifting away from economic problems, which used to be the biggest threats in previous years to fears of a climate breakdown.

According to a new report by the World Economic Forum, managers, scholars and government officials around the world feel the biggest threats they face are all connected to the environment.

The World Economic Forum, in a published survey, said this was the first time that all of the top five risks for the decade ahead were climate and environmental issues.

As the last five years have already been the warmest on record, climate change is expected to strike harder in the coming years, making weather-related disasters more intense and more frequent. “The near-term impacts of climate change add up to a planetary emergency that will include loss of life, social and geopolitical tensions and negative economic impacts,” the report says, adding that failure of climate change mitigation and adaption is the No. 1 risk by impact and number two by likelihood over the next 10 years.

With it comes the loss of biodiversity — ranked as the second most impactful and third most likely risk for the next decade — which has critical implications for humanity due to the likely collapse of food and health systems and disruptions of entire supply chains

Findings from the poll revealed, extreme weather events with massive destruction emerging as the most likely risk, followed by failure to tackle climate change, human-made environmental damage, biodiversity loss and natural disasters.

President of the World Economic Forum, Borge Brende, declared that the political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising, and climate fires are burning. Although the survey showed heightened global concern for climate issues for the medium-term, current trade tensions and domestic political crises around the world cause the biggest headaches in the short-term.

In the survey, most of the respondents, when asked what risks will increase this year, they cited economic confrontations, followed by domestic political polarisation, extreme heat waves, ecosystem destruction and cyber attacks.
Brende said, “This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for a short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks,’’ the former Norwegian politician added.

WEF describes the world we live in as rife with “geopolitical and geo-economic uncertainty.” Powerful economic, demographic and technological forces are shaping a new balance of power, in which states are increasingly viewing opportunities and challenges through “unilateral lenses.”

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