Among the world’s global powers, growing tensions are the most urgent global risk and make it harder to mobilise collective action to tackle climate change, according to a report prepared for next week’s World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland, the Guardian newspaper reported.
The WEF has found that a year of extreme weather-related events meant environmental issues topped the list of concerns. The report came after a survey of around 1,000 experts and decision-makers.
But with United States President Donald Trump last year announcing protectionist measures aimed at China and the European Union, the report said there was a breakdown in the international cooperation needed to limit further global warming.
“Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening,” the report said, noting that nine out of 10 people polled said they fear a worsening of relations among the leading powers this year. “The world’s move into a new phase of strongly state-centred politics, noted in last year’s Global Risks Report, continued throughout 2018.”
The global economy slowed in the second-half of 2018 and the report said activity this year would be held back by growing geo-economic tensions, with 88% of respondents fearing further erosion of multilateral trading rules and agreements.
Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, said: “With global trade and economic growth at risk in 2019, there is a more urgent need than ever to renew the architecture of international cooperation.”
“We simply do not have the gunpowder to deal with the kind of slowdown that current dynamics might lead us towards. What we need now is coordinated, concerted action to sustain growth and to tackle the grave threats facing our world today,” he said.
Environmental risks continued to dominate the risks report, though there were also long-term concerns about the dangers posed by cyber-security breaches in the years ahead.
The report tracks five environmental risks: Biodiversity loss, extreme weather events, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation, man-made disasters and natural disasters. All five are thought to be in the high-impact, high-likelihood category, the Guardian reported.
According to latest reports, the US government itself has been shut down, because of a dispute between President Trump and the US House of representatives mainly over Mr. Trump’s demand for more than five billion US dollars to start building a wall on the southern border. Several hundred thousand federal employees have still not been paid their salaries while Mr. Trump -- as usual stubborn and unwilling to budge from the positions he takes -- still insists that global warming or climate change is largely a Chinese hoax.
Meanwhile, Britain is in chaos with the Brexit deal with Prime Minister Theresa May suffering a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons on Tuesday. She had negotiated a deal for Britain to leave the European Union by the end of March this year, but when it came up for a vote in the House of Commons Ms. May suffered a devastating defeat -- 432 members voting against it and only 202 for. About 100 of her Conservative party’s backbenchers rebelled against Ms. May and it was seen as the biggest defeat any British government had suffered in the House of Commons since 1920. Yesterday Ms. May was facing a vote of no-confidence in her. She was widely expected to win it, but Britain and the 28-nation European Union are in crisis over Brexit and unable to focus on vital issues such as global warming. Among the probable ways out of the Brexit crisis is a second referendum. On the issue, with supporters saying now that the people know the full implications of Brexit and the result could be different.
In Sri Lanka also we need to give much more priority to the battle against global warming or climate change. Unfortunately the focus this year appears to be on political divisions within divisions with presidential, provincial or parliamentary elections likely to be held. Whatever the political divisions we hope President Maithripala Sirisena and the cohabitation United National Front government will focus on issues related to global warming with reports that the sea level across the Kelaniya river is beginning to rise in some areas and we may get salt water from our taps.