The world is at the precipice of multiple crises, but the biggest among them is the failure to act on climate change, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report.
Nearly 1,000 risk experts and global leaders in business, government and civil society believe that in comparison to the long-term risks the world faces from climate change, even the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching devastating effects pale.
The annual Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS) examines risks across five categories: economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological.
This is the first time five of the top 10 threats relate to climate change.
Top 10 global risks over the next 10 years
Climate action failure - Environmental
Extreme weather - Environmental
Biodiversity loss - Environmental
Social cohesion erosion- Societal
Livelihood crisis - Societal
Infectious diseases - Societal
Human environmental damage - Environmental
Natural resource crisis- Environmental
Debt crisis - Economic
Geoeconomic confrontation - Geopolitical
Infectious diseases are considered a lesser threat at number six, while societal risks account for a third of the global top 10, with societal cohesion erosion and livelihood crises appearing in the top five.
In both the medium term (2-5 years) and long term (5-10 years) climate action failure is considered the most critical threat to the world with the highest potential to gravely damage societies, economies and the planet.
A majority of the respondents to the survey believed too little was being done, with 77 per cent saying that international efforts to alleviate climate change had "not started" or were in "early development".
“Widening disparities within and between countries will not only make it more difficult to control COVID-19 and its variants, but will also risk stalling, if not reversing, joint action against shared threats that the world cannot afford to overlook," WEF managing director Saadia Zahidi said.
Climate Councillor and former director of preparedness and mobilisation at the Australian Department of Defence Cheryl Durrant said the world could not let the pandemic pull all the focus from the climate emergency.
“This is happening now and will continue to speed up over the next decade unless we rapidly reduce emissions," Durrant said.
"World governments are focused on the impacts of COVID-19 and the transition to a post-pandemic world. This has affected global cooperation required for a rapid implementation of net-zero policies."
The report warns: "Delaying action to reduce emissions from the burning of coal and gas could well lead to a disorderly net-zero transition."
Durrant said Australia was "experiencing what a disorderly pandemic transition looked like".
"Without adequate investment in preparedness and planning, it is a mess," she said.
"The transition to a renewable and sustainable energy future will be no different if the Australian Government continues to navigate without a suitable plan.
“A sensible government should understand all risks when prioritising its expenditure. The Australian Federal Government has not done this.
"We need greater investment for climate mitigation and adaptation."