Extreme weather evens and natural disasters are ranked No. 1 and 2 in the Global Risks Report for 2018, by the World Economics Forum (WEF) group of researchers.
Climate and tech pose the biggest risks to our world in 2018
This is not surprising: September 2017 was the most intense month on record for extreme weather events, as well as the most expensive US hurricane season since 2005 with economic losses in excess of $300 billion. And the US was not alone in experiencing extreme weather: Ireland, for example, had its worst tropical storm in more than 50 years.
The past year is also among the three hottest years on record and the hottest year without an El Niño ever. As a consequence, 2017 was marked by major wildfires in the US, Chile and Portugal, leading to significant economic costs and sadly more than 100 deaths in Portugal alone.
Rising temperatures are a major risk for agricultural systems, in particular, monoculture production. There is now a 5% chance per decade that natural disasters could cause a simultaneous failure of maize production in China and the US (which together produce 60% of the global supply), leading to widespread famine and hardship.
In 2017, German researchers found that there has been a 75% fall in the population of insects critical to food systems in the past 27 years, raising fears of “ecological Armageddon”. The primary driver of biodiversity loss remains human destruction of habitats for farming, mining, infrastructure development and oil and gas production. The increasing demand for meat is becoming a significant risk for environmental and agricultural systems.