The Global Risks That Have Gotten Worse Since COVID-19
Each year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) puts together its Global Risks Report, an analysis of the top risks that pose a threat to the world.
The report includes data from nearly 1,000 surveyed leaders, across various organizations and regions. In this year’s report, respondents were asked which global risks have gotten worse since the start of the pandemic.
Here’s what they said.
According to respondents, the erosion of social cohesion is the global risk that has intensified the most since the start of the global pandemic. The WEF defines this as the loss of social capital or social stability.
|Risk||Category||% of respondents|
|Social cohesion erosion||Societal||27.8%|
|Climate action failure||Environmental||25.4%|
|Mental health deterioration||Societal||23.0%|
|Backlash against science||Societal||9.5%|
|Human environmental damage||Environmental||7.8%|
|Interstate relations fracture||Geopolitical||7.0%|
|Asset bubble burst||Economic||6.7%|
|Social security collapse||Societal||6.2%|
|Adverse tech advances||Technological||5.3%|
|Tech governance failure||Technological||4.5%|
|Geopolitical resource contestation||Geopolitical||4.4%|
|Digital power concentration||Technological||4.3%|
|Public infrastructure failure||Societal||4.2%|
|Natural resource crises||Environmental||2.7%|
|IT infrastructure breakdown||Technological||2.4%|
|Illicit economic activity||Economic||2.2%|
|Pollution harms to health||Societal||1.9%|
|Weapons of mass destruction||Geopolitical||0.3%|
Inequality existed long before COVID-19, but the pandemic has only made things worse.
For example, employment recovery has been uneven across the United States. High-wage workers have seen employment rates bounce back fairly quickly after their Spring 2020 slump, while low-wage workers haven’t recovered at the same rate.
As of August 2021, employment rates for those making below $27K a year were still down 25% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
In addition to societal threats, a couple environmental risks made it to the top of the list as well. Both Climate action failure and extreme weather were in the top five.
Considering how difficult it’s been for international governments to collaborate on COVID-19 relief efforts, respondents feel less than optimistic that we’ll manage to seamlessly deal with the chaos that could come from environmental risks, which are similarly complex.
Which global risk do you think has worsened the most since the start of the pandemic?
Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss
Approximately 15 billion trees are cut down annually across the world. Here’s a look at the five major drivers of forest loss. (Sponsored)
Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss
The world has lost one-third of its forests since the ice age, and today, approximately 15 billion trees are cut down annually.
Forests are wellsprings of biodiversity and an essential buffer against climate change, absorbing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Yet, forest loss continues to grow.
The above infographic sponsored by Carbon Streaming Corporation highlights the five primary drivers behind forest loss.
Deforestation vs. Degradation
‘Forest loss’ is a broad term that captures the impacts of both permanent deforestation and forest degradation. There is an important distinction between the two:
- Permanent deforestation: Refers to the complete removal of trees or conversion of forests to another land use (like buildings), where forests cannot regrow.
- Forest degradation: Refers to a reduction in the density of trees in the area without a change in land use. Forests are expected to regrow.
Forest degradation accounts for over 70% or 15 million hectares of annual forest loss. The other 30% of lost forests are permanently deforested.
|Driving factor||Category||Average annual forest loss (2001-2015, million hectares)|
|Commodity-driven deforestation||Permanent deforestation||5.7|
|Forestry products||Forest degradation||5.4|
|Shifting agriculture||Forest degradation||5|
Commodity-driven deforestation, which includes removal of forests for farming and mining, is the largest driver of forest loss. Agriculture alone accounts for three-fourths of all commodity-driven deforestation, where forests are often converted into land for cattle ranches and plantations.
The harvesting of forestry products like timber, paper, pulp, and rubber accounts for the largest share of forest loss from degradation. This process is often managed and planned so that forests can regrow after the harvest.
Shifting agriculture and wildfires each account for around 5 million hectares or one-fourth of annual forest loss. In both cases, forests can replenish if the land is left unused.
Urbanization—the conversion of forests into land for cities and infrastructure—is by far the smallest contributor, accounting for less than 1% of annual forest loss.
How Much Carbon Do Forests Absorb?
The world’s forests absorbed nearly twice as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as they emitted between 2001 and 2019, according to research published in Nature.
On a net basis, forests sequester 7.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) annually, which equates to around 15% of global CO2e emissions. As the impacts of climate change intensify, protecting forests from deforestation and degradation is increasingly critical.
Carbon Streaming Corporation accelerates climate action through carbon credit streams on REDD+ projects that protect the Earth’s forests. Click here to learn more now.
Ranked: Top 10 Foreign Policy Concerns of Americans
As the world’s superpower, the U.S. has major influence in world events. Which foreign policy concerns stand out for Americans?
In the United States, there is a distinct difference on top foreign policy concerns between Democrats and Republicans.
This chart uses data from Morning Consult to assess the top policy concerns of Americans.
The Top Concerns
Overall, the average American is most concerned about terrorism, immigration, and drug trafficking. Interestingly, this list corresponds with the concerns of the average Republican, though falling in a different order.
Meanwhile, Democrats are chiefly worried about climate change, another global pandemic, and terrorism.
Here’s a breakdown of the policy concerns at large and across political parties.
|Overall Rank with Americans||Foreign Policy Concern||Share of Voters Listing it as a Top Concern||Share of Democrats Listing it as a Top Concern||Share of Republicans Listing it as a Top Concern|
|#6||Preventing a global economic crisis||32%||33%||31%|
|#7||Securing critical supply chains||30%||27%||34%|
|#8||Preventing another global pandemic||30%||38%||22%|
|#9||Russia's invasion of Ukraine||27%||33%||21%|
|#10||Protecting human rights globally||25%||31%||18%|
|#13||Iran nuclear deal||21%||19%||24%|
|#14||Upholding democracy globally||15%||22%||8%|
Notably, the concern around U.S.-China relations ranks considerably low, as does preventing disinformation. Upholding democracy worldwide ranks extremely low with Republicans.
America’s Foreign Policy
Along party lines, the results are not surprising. Democrats skew towards multilateralism and want to engage with foreign bodies and other countries to tackle global issues. Republicans are generally more concerned with what’s happening at home.
Looking at the country as a whole and its relations with other nations, however, Americans lean more towards an America-first focus. According to Morning Consult, 39% of registered voters want to decrease U.S. involvement in other countries’ affairs, whereas 20% want to increase it; 30% want to keep the status quo.
Here’s a closer look at Americans’ desire to get involved in a variety of foreign policy initiatives:
|Issue||Increase Efforts||Decrease Efforts||Neither|
|Overseas Troop Deployment||21%||37%||30%|
|Trade and Tariffs||41%||15%||29%|
|Involvement with International Organizations||35%||21%||32%|
|Resolution of Military Disputes||38%||16%||33%|
|Resolution of Economic Disputes||43%||13%||31%|
As of October 2022
The U.S. Midterm Elections
With midterm elections underway, America’s foreign policy may not be the most important factor for voters. Pew Research Center found that in these congressional elections, foreign policy only ranked 12th among other key issues considered “very important” by registered voters.
The top five concerns of voters in these midterms are:
- The economy
- The future of democracy within the U.S.
- Energy policy
Regardless, the U.S. has a massive impact in foreign affairs and the results of the country’s midterm elections will likely cause a ripple effect globally. If Republicans win the House—which is looking extremely likely—and the Senate, President Biden’s foreign policy initiatives and priorities could be drastically restricted.
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