It is significant that business leaders and policymakers from tions around the world are agreed on ‘extreme weather’ being the single most prominent risk to the global economy. Ahead of the World Economic Forum’s forthcoming meet at Davos in Switzerland, the forum’s annual Global Risks Report points out that the environment was by far the greatest concern experts raised in 2017. And they are more pessimistic about 2018, with a majority of nearly 1,000 global exports polled apprehending that the world is entering ‘a critical period of intensified risks’ this year. The experts were asked to prioritise 30 global risks in terms of likelihood and impact. While they fingered ‘weapons of mass destruction’ as the foremost risk in terms of impact, extreme weather events was ranked as the risk most likely to occur. In fact, the WEF report notes that all 5 major environmental risks, mely extreme weather, biodiversity loss & ecosystem collapse, major tural disasters, man-made environmental disasters, and failure of climate-change mitigation & adaptation were ranked highly by experts on both likelihood and impact dimensions. With year 2017 marked by a series of heat and cold waves, wildfires, floods and hurricanes, it is hardly surprising that extreme weather events has been flagged as the greatest risk in 2018. But US President Dold Trump continues to amaze by still pouring scorn at the mountain of scientific evidence about climate change. Despite large parts of the US freezing under dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills in December, Trump thought it fun enough to tweet: “Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!” It took Washington State Representative Pramila Jayapal to remind Trump: “Weather is not the same as climate. The President should be able to understand that. It isn't hard.” It is noteworthy that the Trump administration has dropped climate change from the list of tiol security for the US.
Be as it may, the WEF report says that the prospect of economic growth reviving strongly in 2018 presents world leaders ‘with a golden opportunity to address signs of severe weakness’ in many of the complex global systems, such as social, economic, diplomatic and environmental. At the Bonn Climate Summit in November last year, a report published by Germanwatch warned that a number of small island states like Fiji, Haiti and Sri Lanka, as well as developing countries like India, Myanmar and Viet m are being repeatedly hit by extreme weather and have little time to recover fully. The report’s climate risk index showed that 9 of the 10 countries most affected between 1997 and 2016 are developing countries with low or lower middle income per capita; since 1997, the death toll has been over 5,20,000 due to more than 11,000 extreme weather events. With the Earth getting hotter each year since the turn of the millennium, such figures offer serious food for thought to the world community for concerted, meaningful action. Lest we think extreme weather events are distant phenome, there are sobering pointers in a recent report published in the jourl ‘Environmental Research Letters’. In it, a team of US researchers has shown that humid regions around the world are at great risk from deadly heat waves that will increase in frequency in the second half of 21st century. It will be less about heat alone and more about ‘heat reacting with water-sodden air’ that will spell death for humans, the study warns. As global temperatures rise, the atmosphere can hold more water vapour, which in turn means that humid regions will only get more humid. Since human and other mammalian bodies cool down through sweating, highly moisture-laden air will make evaporation off the skin virtually impossible. A stricken creature’s core body temperature will then rise dangerously beyond tolerable range, leading to organ failures and filly death. High ‘wet-bulb’ temperatures reflecting the combined effects of heat and humidity, could last for 100 to 250 days a year in parts of the tropics by the 2070s. While 32 degrees celsius would be the threshold beyond which “people could crumble” working outside, 35°C by late this century could bring about death within hours without artificial cooling. According to this report, the hardest-hit area in terms of human impact “will probably be densely populated north-eastern India”, while other humid regions like eastern Chi, southern Middle East including the Arabian peninsula, western and central Africa, south-eastern United States and the Amazon will also be badly affected. It all depends on whether tions can come together to substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades, which could help ward off such a doomsday scerio. Or else, large parts of the planet may become well nigh uninhabitable.