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WEF Global Risk Report 2020 Highlights Impact of Climate Change on Disease

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WEF Global Risk Report 2020 Highlights Impact of Climate Change on Disease



At a critical time when collective action is essential to correct the failures of climate change, biodiversity loss and infectious disease, nations are more fragmented than ever. The 15th edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report has been published as the world stands at the brink of unprecedented climate-related emergencies. The report calls for a multi-stakeholder approach, cautioning that opting to ride out the current period in the hope that the global system will “snap back” runs the risk of missing crucial windows to address pressing challenges.


The report connects ten of the most crucial risks over the coming decade to climate change. These include extreme weather, climate action failure, natural disasters, biodiversity loss, human-made environmental disasters, data fraud or theft, cyberattacks, water crises, global governance failures and asset bubbles.


Climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than expected. Record-breaking temperatures, increasingly frequent natural disasters, and as-yet unknown risks (likely including extreme loss of life, stress on ecosystems, increased migration, exacerbation of geopolitical tensions, trade, labour and supply chain disruption) threaten irreversible harm. Scientists, politicians, and grassroots groups are calling for swift and effective action in the form of a Green New Deal, agreeing that we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.


Beyond the direct impact of climate change, the report points out that destabilising tipping points in nature could exacerbate the social and economic consequences of climate risk. Human-imposed extinction rates are off the charts; and the stress our actions have put on our ecosystem alters Earth’s land surface and impacts ocean area, pollutes habitats and our food chain, introduces non-indigenous species that edge out native ones and obliterates masses of insect populations, coral reefs and phytoplankton. Scientists are calling for a return to nature to explore new therapeutic opportunities -- efforts that are threatened by biodiversity loss.


In Hong Kong, climate change has manifested itself in the form of increasing numbers of severe weather events in recent years. Super Typhoon Hato battered Hong Kong in August 2017 with wind gusts of up to 193 km/h, and went on to cause direct economic loss in excess of HKD38 billion in Macao, as well as in Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Guizhou and Yannan.[1] It was followed by Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which impacted Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Southern China in September 2018. The fifth tropical cyclone to affect Hong Kong that year, Mangkhut injured at least 458 people in the SAR, and paralyzed sea, land and air transportation services with destruction caused by heavy rain, storm surges and high waves.[2]


It is anticipated that climate change will continue to accelerate the frequency of severe weather events on a global scale. In the context of Hong Kong, this highlights the need to examine not only the direct impact of typhoons and other events, but also their indirect impact on critical infrastructure such as transportation networks and nuclear power plants. However, the current global COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need to prepare for emergency situations beyond extreme weather events – raising awareness for another set of potential risks and mitigating preparations.


Aiming to build Hong Kong’s disaster resilience, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute (HKJCDPRI) was established in 2014 to provide a platform for comprehensive training, capacity building, research, policy discussion and knowledge exchange. Working to prepare the community for both short-term and long-term impacts of climate change, HKJCDPRI creates learning opportunities for disaster practitioners and the general public – sharing knowledge regarding a range of topics, from disaster preparedness to disease prevention.


For more details, please view the full report on The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020.