- Global Catastrophic Risks 2021 report highlights links between climate change, pandemics and conflict as multilateral blind spots
- Pandemic lessons illustrate need for better prediction, prevention of future risks
Stockholm – The international community needs an urgent step change in how it cooperates to handle multiple global risks simultaneously, according to a new report launched today by the Stockholm-based Global Challenges Foundation.
Global catastrophic risks are those that threaten at least 10 per cent of humanity. The report, an annual survey of the most serious global risks, with contributions from 16 experts, highlights the intersections between threats such as climate change, ecological collapse, pandemics and conflict – and the siloed nature of the multilateral system set up to deal with them.
“Our systems for global cooperation are so siloed that it’s no wonder governments lurch from one crisis, deadline or summit to the next, without the right structures in place to evaluate global risks rationally and prepare for them effectively as a global community,” says Jens Orback, Executive Director of the Global Challenges Foundation.
“The pandemic has naturally consumed world attention for a long time, but now we have the
spectre of conflict and terrorism returning with Afghanistan, and, in just a few weeks, the COP26
climate talks where we must act to avoid catastrophic climate change. We are fighting fires on
all fronts, but without the right management or equipment in place.”, he continues.
The report, Global Catastrophic Risks: Navigating the Intersections [link], includes an essay by Dr Natasha Bajema and Andrea Ressonico of the Council of Strategic Risks in Washington DC. They cite examples such as the destruction of forests, which contributes to ecological collapse and climate change, while at the same time increasing the risks of dangerous pathogens jumping from animals to humans, potentially fuelling conflict over diminishing resources and driving migration.
“A systemic and dangerous gap exists in collective action for mitigating the complex intersections across global risks,” says Dr Bajema. “World leaders need to reimagine multilateralism through a converging risks lens and work to prevent global catastrophic risks as part of an interconnected system.”
Anticipating the risks of the future is another key theme of the report, with a particular focus on emerging technologies. Essays on Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing and mature nanotechnology examine the risks these technologies may soon present – and the latest attempts to set up governance measures to handle them at a global level.
“The pandemic has shown us what can happen when we don’t have the right preparedness measures in place, ” says Jens Orback. “We need to constantly have our eyes on the horizon, looking at future risks and how we may need to cooperate to deal with them in five, 10, 20 years, otherwise they can come up quickly and overwhelm us.”
The Global Challenges Foundation exists to catalyse new thinking around the global governance of global catastrophic risks. Key areas include:
The Climate Governance Commission – a group of eminent experts and organisations working on multiple initiatives to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The Commission’s report will be presented at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November.
United Nations reform – the foundation has backed inter-disciplinary groups of experts to develop new ideas to make the UN fit for purpose to manage 21st century risks. This work includes broadening the concept of security for the UN Security Council to include climate and environmental threats as well as reforming its membership and remit.
International courts – strengthen the mandate of international courts – to deal more effectively with global catastrophic risks. This includes: the ability to hold individuals accountable for violations of the ecosystem called Ecocide, and to enact laws that, at a global level, regulate our planetary boundaries with courts that resolve conflicts on these issues.
Notes to Editors:
For more information or interviews contact: Helen Palmer on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)7912 242394.
The report can be viewed here.
The Global Challenges Foundation works to incite deeper understanding of the global risks that threaten humanity and catalyze ideas to tackle them. Rooted in a scientific analysis of risks, the Foundation brings together the brightest minds from academic, politics, business and civil society to forge transformative approaches to secure a better future for all. www.globalchallenges.org