Against the Covid-19 backdrop, WEF ranks infectious diseases as the world’s top risk; but the long-term risk is climate change
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2021 lists infectious diseases as the top global risk, displacing climate change. Quite predictable, given the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the global economy and society. The pandemic has resulted in a gap between the rich and the poor widening across the globe. The report notes that Covid-19 is an immediate threat for the world for the next two years.
The WHO estimates that the pandemic halted immunisation drives in 68 countries, putting 80 million children under the age of one the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. The report also mentions 12 new risks—deteriorating mental health, mass youth disillusionment, prolonged economic stagnation, systemic collapse of important industries, social security systems and multilateral institutions, to name a few. With rising unemployment, widening digital divides and youth disillusionment, the world’s youth will be severely affected.
However, against the backdrop, it will be unwise to view climate change as a lesser threat. Given the progress made on vaccines and therapeutics that can aid the fight against the pandemic, Covid-19’s impact can be mitigated over the long term. With melting permafrost, increase in the geographic spread of tropical pathogens because of warming, infectious diseases are going to be a bigger threat because of climate change. Loss of livelihood, habitat, etc, will all become more pronounced. As the world battles the pandemic, it must not lose sight of what threatens the planet’s future in the long term.