A coalition of more than 200 leading scientists have warned that the planet may be tipped into “global systemic collapse” by overlapping environmental crises. Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, extreme weather events, major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, food crises, and water crises top a list of 30 global risks both in terms of likelihood and impact, according to scientists surveyed by international research group “Future Earth”.
These five threats "have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that might cascade to create global systemic collapse," according to “Our Future on Earth 2020”, launched 7 February.
“Our actions in the next decade will determine our collective path forward. The report aims to tell the story of where we are on our collective journey by connecting the dots between what society is currently experiencing – from fires to food shortages to a rise in populism – with recent developments in the research community. Physical and social scientists have much to say about what is driving current events, and in this report science provides insight into how we might move in a more sustainable direction”, according to the report.
Future Earth is a global research programme designed to provide the knowledge needed to support transformations towards sustainability. Its focus on systems-based approaches seeks to deepen our understanding of complex Earth systems and human dynamics across different disciplines and uses this understanding to underpin evidence-based policies and strategies for sustainable development.
Various subsets of these risks also turned up as key issues across the various questions posed to scientists in the report’s survey. Four of the five – climate change, extreme weather, biodiversity loss, and water crises – were perceived as the most likely and most impactful risks currently facing humanity.
The scientific advisors for the survey called on the world’s academics, business leaders, and policymakers to “pay urgent attention to these five global risks, and to ensure that they are treated as interacting systems, rather than addressed one at a time, in isolation. Appreciating their potential integration and interaction is critical for addressing the human and planetary challenges that lie ahead”.