With this year's World Economic Forum in Davos quickly approaching, the WEF released a new report Tuesday which paints a dire picture of the future in the face of climate change, the global economic recession, and a lack of political will to deal with an interrelated "perfect global storm" ahead of us.
The annual Global Risks report, conducted by the WEF and based on a survey of over 1,000 experts from industry, government, academia and civil society, urges that an impending global catastrophe is in the works due to severe income disparities, debt and steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions.
"Continued stress on the global economic system is positioned to absorb the attention of leaders for the foreseeable future," the report states. "Meanwhile, the Earth's environmental system is simultaneously coming under increasing stress. Future simultaneous shocks to both systems could trigger the 'perfect global storm' with potentially insurmountable consequences."
Among the most immediate and impending 'Global Risks', the WEF lists: wide-scale systemic financial failure, a global water supply crisis and a worldwide food shortage crises, among others.
The World Economic Forum, and its annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, taking place this year from January 23 to 27, is comprised of business leaders, politicians and central bankers—and is certainly not known to be a venue for climate action. As Ben Hirschler reports for Reuters Tuesday, the WEF Davos meeting is "where the rich and powerful will ponder the planet's future."
"Davos has come to symbolize the modern globalized world dominated by successful multinational corporations," he wrote, from which the greatest resistance to climate action has surfaced.
As was already seen at this year's international climate summit of world leaders, COP 18, business interests—particularly the fossil fuel industry—hold great sway over many of the decisions and agreements made, or passed over.
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At the summit, leaders extended the Kyoto Protocol until 2020 but fell short of addressing the bulk of the exponential increases in greenhouse gas emission—releaving major developing polluters such as China and India from commitments while the United States refused to ratify the agreement at any level.
If there was a winner at the talks, it was the fossil fuel lobby, said Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Friends of the Earth International energy coordinator.
"The fossil fuel lobby won the Qatar desert climate battle, where we witnessed dirty industry elites still holding the reins of our governments. Meanwhile the climate crisis worsens and the window for action shrinks day by day. Developed countries did not even try to solve the climate crisis at these talks. Instead, they continued to protect the interests of fossil fueled corporations and helped financial elites grow their latest cash cow: the global carbon market scam," stated Clifton.
Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth International spokesperson in Qatar stated, "The blame lies squarely with the rich industrialized world, most notably the US. The Obama administration is succeeding in its efforts to dismantle the UN global climate regime and other wealthy nations have joined in, paralyzing the climate talks and forcing the world’s poor to pay the price."
As Lee Howell, editor of this year's WEF report, told reporters Tuesday, "We are not seeing the state leadership necessary to tackle these risks."
The track record of these global summits begs the question, do the world's elite have it in them to act on climate change and steer us out of the 'perfect storm'?