Around 768 million people across 27 countries around the world are at the increasing risk posed by catastrophic ecological threats as the climate crisis worsens, a major international study has warned.
Climate-related threats, such as water scarcity, food stress, and natural disasters mean that in 2021 the number of undernourished people around the world rose to 750 million, a rise of 35 per cent since 2017, according to the latest Ecological Threat Report from global think tank the Institute for Economics and Peace.
The report’s authors said their findings prove that “existing ecological challenges will only be amplified by climate change”, and current approaches to tackling the climate crisis are failing millions of the most vulnerable people.
The report analyses ecological risk, societal resilience, and peace for 228 countries and territories around the world.
In its latest report it identifies 27 countries home to an estimated 768 million people, which face the worst ecological threats and have the lowest societal resilience. 23 of the 27 are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa.
The report also warned that almost 92 per cent of the world’s undernourished people lived in low to very low peace countries.
Undernourishment, which the analysts defined as being “where a person’s habitual food consumption is medically insufficient to sustain them”, is forecast to deteriorate even further due to the rising rate of ecological degradation around the world, as well as rising inflation, and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Despite the climate crisis significantly increasing all risks, the report said due to more immediate threats to life, concern about the climate emergency was lower in 2021 than in 2019.
“Regions exposed to the highest levels of ecological threat are on average the least concerned with climate change, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia ranking war, terrorism, crime, violence and livelihoods as of greater concern,” the research team said.
Steve Killelea, the founder and executive chairman of the IEP, called on governments around the world to focus on long-term solutions to address the degradation of the natural world, and to end wars and the forced migration which conflicts cause.
He said: “As we approach COP27, this report is a timely reminder that the costs of many of the existing ecological challenges will only be amplified by climate change.
“The world’s current approach to the countries suffering the worst climate-related issues is not working – ecological threats are increasing and have systemic causes that require systemic solutions.”
He added: “Governments and international agencies must invest in building long-term resilience to avert future ecological destruction, forced migration and conflict. The Russia-Ukraine war highlights the effects of conflict on forced migration, with 12 – 14 million Ukrainians currently displaced in neighbouring countries. Developmental programmes should focus on micro enterprises which capture water, improve agriculture and on value-added manufacturing. This will improve the lives of the people who are suffering the most.”
The report warned that continuing business as usual was taking an enormous toll on people and the planet. Air pollution costs the world $8.1 trillion annually – around 6 per cent of global GDP, and claiming between 6-9 million lives.
Nine cities have over 20 times the maximum level of air pollution recommended by WHO, including Lahore, Kabul and Agra.
Meanwhile, the 40 countries identified as being rated the lowest for peace are projected to increase their population by 1.3 billion, making up 49 per cent of the world’s population by 2050. The countries facing the worst ecological threats will see the biggest increases, with sub-Saharan Africa’s population projected to increase by 95 per cent by the middle of the century.