Major risks affecting the planet and what can be done

Major risks can manifest as either a natural event or a man-made occurrence. The definition revolves around two key elements: the hazard itself and the stakes involved – major risks have a high threat level but are generally infrequent. Countries around the world are rallying to battle climate change and other natural threats that are becoming increasingly common.

The risk component of a major risk can take various forms. Natural risks include earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and volcanic eruptions, among others. These events arise from the forces of nature and can have devastating consequences. Man-made risks, on the other hand, result from human activities and can include industrial accidents, chemical spills, nuclear incidents, terrorist attacks, and technological failures. These hazards are often the result of human error, technological malfunction or deliberate actions.

According to the latest World Economic Forum Global Risks Report, published in January this year, the impacts of climate change, where natural ecosystems reach the point of no return, represents one of the top threats to global populations and economies today. Also on the list are:

Human health: pandemics and chronic capacity challenges
Human security: new weapons, new conflicts
Digital rights: privacy in peril
Economic stability: global debt distress

From WEF Global Threats 2023 report

This drive to battle major natural risks is especially pertinent right now, as currently Europe, China and the U.S., to name a few, are all experiencing extreme weather events, including record-breaking temperatures of upwards of 50 ̊ C, major flooding and extreme droughts.

What is being done?

Action around the world is being taken, and populations and governments alike are taking the issues increasingly seriously.

This week, as both countries are suffering searing heatwaves, U.S. climate envoy, John Kerry visited China to call on them take more rapid action to confront the climate crisis. The talks are said to represent the first substantive summit between the world’s two largest carbon emitters on the climate crisis since last year.

The U.S. Biden administration in 2022 meanwhile, has implemented its plans, including $2.3 billion in funding for its Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) programme to help communities increase resilience to natural weather events, an investment of $385 million to help families with their household energy costs, and an expansion of offshore wind opportunities and jobs.

In China, coal still dominates as an energy source, according to a recent report by the London School of Economics in London, but there are plans to transition to more renewable energy sources.

In June 2022, the country launched a new plan which sets out targets to increase total renewable energy consumption to 1 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent (tce) (from 0.68 billion tce in 2020) and the share of non-fossil fuel energy to 20% of primary energy consumption by 2025 (from 15.9% in 2020), which could help reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 2.6 billion tonnes annually. China has also committed to stop building new coal power plants abroad.

China’s government has invested heavily in the development and rollout of electric vehicles, and has provided significant subsidies and incentives to the sector.

India, the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide by volume in 2020, has a net zero target date of 2070, much later than the 2050 date set by other countries. Its per-capita emissions are also much lower than other countries. India has also confirmed pledges to generate 50% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, and its target for maintaining forest cover, which acts as a carbon sink. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced at the last COP a target for 500 GW of its energy capacity to be from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.

In the UK, a planned ban on gas boilers in new dwellings starting in 2025 is in place.

Finally, in France there has been a push towards the circular economy, which recycles all the country’s plastic, by 2025, after plans to heavily tax fuel fell flat in the face of widespread protest. In 2020 it was announced that plastic straws, cutlery, stirrers, Styrofoam containers, kid’s meal toys, and even confetti would be eliminated by 2022. Water fountains were made mandatory in public establishments, and the deployment of bulk distribution services will require vendors to accept containers brought in by customers. This is an extension of France’s push to achieve a “circular economy,” in which 100 percent of plastic is recycled, by 2025.

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