Environmental Risks Haunt World Economic Forum

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (Photo by Michael Buholzer courtesy World Economic Forum)

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (Photo by Michael Buholzer courtesy World Economic Forum)

By Sunny Lewis

DAVOS, Switzerland, January 23, 2018 (  News) – Climate change, terrorism and the backlash against globalization pose the greatest threats to the survival of human civilization, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the opening session of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos today.

“The challenges we face are as numerous as they are daunting,” said Modi, leader of the 1.3 billion people in world’s most populous democracy and fastest growing major economy.

“In a world that is full of fault lines and rifts, we need to build a shared future,” Modi said, emphasizing the theme of this year’s meeting, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.”

“With new forces arising, the balance between economic capabilities and political power is changing at great speed,” cautioned Modi. “Because of this, we can foresee far-reaching changes in the nature of this world with respect to peace, stability and security.”

“Glaciers are receding, ice caps are melting in the Arctic, many islands are sinking. … There can be floods, or there can be drought, we are seeing the impact of extreme weather conditions,” he said.

Countries have failed to work together and to live up to their environmental pledges, said the Indian Prime Minister. “Everyone talks about reducing carbon emissions but there are very few people or countries who back their words with their resources to help developing countries to adopt appropriate technology,” he said. “Very few of them come forward to help.”

Modi said his government is aiming for a major move to cleaner forms of energy. In the last three years, India has brought some 60 gigawatts of renewable energy online, roughly a third of Modi’s target.

“To save the environment and to fight climate change, my government has planned a very big campaign and given itself very tough objective,” he said. “By the year 2022, in India we want to produce 175 gigawatts of renewable energy. This is a very big target for a country like India.”

Around the world, aspirations are rising as the economies heal from the severe recession of the past decade, and opportunities are opening to deal with the grave risks facing humanity, World Economic Forum organizers believe.

Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, World Economic Forum, said, “A widening economic recovery presents us with an opportunity that we cannot afford to squander, to tackle the fractures that we have allowed to weaken the world’s institutions, societies and environment.”

“The big concern,” Schwab said in his message to attendees, “is that our optimism lets us forget that economic growth without restoring the social contract will not be sustainable.”

“We must take seriously the risk of a global systems breakdown,” warned Schwab. “Together we have the resources and the new scientific and technological knowledge to prevent this. Above all, the challenge is to find the will and momentum to work together for a shared future.”

Environment Tops Global Risks Report 2018

“We have been pushing our planet to the brink and the damage is becoming increasingly clear,” the World Economic Forum warned in its “Global Risks Report 2018” published just ahead of this week’s meeting at Davos.

The prospect of strong economic growth in 2018 presents leaders with a golden opportunity to address signs of severe weakness in many of the complex systems that underpin our world, such as societies, economies, international relations and the environment. That is the message of “The Global Risks Report 2018,” said the World Economic Forum in a statement January 19, launching the report.

WEF’s annual risks reports are based on annual Global Risks Perception surveys. Nearly 1,000 expert respondents from business, academia, civil society and the public sector, including many areas of expertise, geographies and age groups rate 30 global risks for likelihood and impact.

As in 2017, this year the environment was by far the greatest concern. Extreme weather events were seen as the single most prominent risk.

All five of the environmental risks on the survey list: extreme weather; biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; major natural disasters; man-made environmental disasters; and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation – were ranked highly on both dimensions – likelihood and impact.

“In our annual Global Risks Perception Survey, environmental risks have grown in prominence in recent years,” said WEF. “This trend has continued this year, with all five risks in the environmental category being ranked higher than average for both likelihood and impact over a 10-year horizon.”

Environmental risks affected millions in 2017, a year characterized by high-impact hurricanes, extreme temperatures, devastating wildfires and the first rise in CO2 emissions for four years.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said risks are intensifying, while seven percent said they’re declining.

“A deteriorating geopolitical landscape is partly to blame for the pessimistic outlook in 2018, with 93 percent of respondents saying they expect political or economic confrontations between major powers to worsen and nearly 80 percent expecting an increase in risks associated with war involving major powers,” according to the WEF report.

“A trend towards nation-state unilateralism” may make it tough to sustain the long-term, multilateral responses required to counter global warming and the degradation of the global environment, warned WEF.

John Drzik, is president of Global Risk and Digital at the UK’s Marsh & McLennan Companies, which handles insurance, risk management, reinsurance, investment advice and management consulting.

Commenting on the risk report, Drzik said, “Business and government need to invest far more in resilience efforts if we are to prevent the same bulging ‘protection’ gap between economic and insured losses that we see for natural catastrophes.”

Alison Martin, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance Group, commented, “Extreme weather events were ranked again as a top global risk by likelihood and impact. Environmental risks, together with a growing vulnerability to other risks, are now seriously threatening the foundation of most of our commons.”

“Unfortunately we currently observe a too-little-too-late response by governments and organizations to key trends such as climate change,” warned Martin. “It’s not yet too late to shape a more resilient tomorrow, but we need to act with a stronger sense of urgency in order to avoid potential system collapse.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for the Earth

To build resilience and prevent collapse, in September, the World Economic Forum announced a new initiative to harness innovations and technologies to transform they way environmental issues are addressed.

The initiative came in response to warnings from scientists in an article published by the journal “Science” that human activity has pushed the Earth beyond four of nine “planetary boundaries.”

At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings, warned researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Center trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world.

Technology holds great potential to unlock new solutions but also poses new risks to the environment, people and societies.

The initiative was announced in New York City at the Forum’s first Sustainable Development Impact Summit.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for the Earth initiative is developing in partnership with Stanford University and PwC and with funding from the Mava Foundation.

In an op-ed article, Schwab characterized 4IR this way: “Ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing. Intelligent robots. Self-driving cars. Neuro-technological brain enhancements. Genetic editing. The evidence of dramatic change is all around us and it’s happening at exponential speed.”

Now, technology entrepreneurs, environmental experts, policymakers and industry leaders are identifying investment opportunities for commercial, impact and blended finance; supporting governments to develop policies; and assisting entrepreneurs to implement innovative solutions at scale.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution provides an opportunity to fix the world’s burgeoning environmental challenges – but they need to be tackled by design,” said Dominic Waughray, head of Public-Private Partnerships and member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

“It is possible,” said Waughray, “that a tipping point of widespread innovation to tackle some of the Earth’s most urgent challenges is within humanity’s grasp.”

“There is great potential, and increasing interest, in exploring how innovations could also be applied to improve our environmental and natural resource security, including through technology and system innovations that we might not yet be able to even imagine,” Waughray envisioned.

The need for that security is expanding every day. Although humanity has already pushed the planet to its limits, a growing population means that even more people will need secure supplies of food, energy and transportation.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global demand for food will increase 60 percent between 2006 to 2050.

The International Energy Agency says energy consumption will increase by at least 48 percent between 2012 to 2040.

And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s International Transport Forum forecasts there will be 2.5 billion cars on the road by 2050, up from about one billion today.

Even in the face of all these risks, Jim Yong Kim, President, The World Bank, is looking on the bright side.

“For the first time since the financial crisis, the World Bank is forecasting that the global economy will be operating at or near full capacity. We anticipate growth in advanced economies to moderate slightly, but growth in emerging markets and developing countries should strengthen to 4.5% this year,” wrote Kim in an op-ed piece for the World Economic Forum.

In addition to financial good news, the first day at Davos featured wisdom from Pope Francis.

In a prepared speech read at Davos by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, the Pope said, “If we want a more secure future, one that encourages the prosperity of all, then it is necessary to keep the compass continually oriented towards ‘true North,’ represented by authentic values. Now is the time to take courageous and bold steps for our beloved planet. This is the right moment to put into action our responsibility to contribute to the development of humanity.”

Featured Image: India’s Prime Minister Narandra Modi addresses the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. (Photo by Valeriano Di Domenico courtesy World Economic Forum) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Our Drying Planet


An aerial view of the Tigris River as it flows through Baghdad, Iraq, population 8.76 million, the second largest city in the Arab world, July 31, 2016. (U.S. Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, March 16, 2017 ( News) – The world faces an acute water crisis within a decade that will affect food supplies, megacities and industry globally, warns Australian science writer Julian Cribb, author of the new book “Surviving the 21st Century.

The water crisis is sneaking up on humanity unawares. People turn on the tap and assume clean, safe water will always flow. But the reality is that supplies are already critical for 4.2 billion people – over half the world’s population,” says Cribb. “During times of drought, megacities like Sao Paulo, La Paz, Los Angeles, Santiago, 32 Indian cities and 400 Chinese cities are now at risk.

World water use is already more than 10 trillion tonnes a year. While the human population has tripled since 1950, our water use has grown six-fold,” says Cribb.

In his book, Cribb cites some disturbing facts:
  • Groundwater is running out in practically every country in the world where it is used to grow food, posing risks to food security in northern India, northern China, Central Asia, the central and western United States, and the Middle East. Most of this groundwater will take thousands of years to replenish.
  • The icepack on high mountain chains is shrinking, emptying the rivers it once fed in practically every continent.
  • Around the world, large lakes are drying up, especially in Central Asia, China, sub-Saharan Africa and the South American Andes.
  • Most of the world’s large rivers are polluted with chemicals, nutrients and sediment.
  • 50,000 dams break up the world’s major rivers, sparking increased disputes over water between neighboring countries.

Pope Francis has warned that humanity could be moving toward a “world war over water.”

Addressing an international seminar on the human right to water hosted in February by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope said, “It is painful to see when in the legislation of a country or a group of countries, water is not considered a human right. It is even more painful when it is removed from legislation and this human right is denied. I ask myself if in the midst of this third World War happening in pieces, are we on the way to a larger world war over water?

Each of the last three UN secretaries-general – Ban Ki-Moon, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali – has warned of the dangers of world water scarcity and of future water wars.

To counter this danger, José Graziano da Silva, who heads the Rome-based UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, is focusing on the cradle of civilization, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and the entire Gulf region, as one of the areas most exposed to the risks posed by climate change, particularly water scarcity.

In an opinion article written in January, Graziano da Silva cited research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the authority for his warning, “The Gulf region is poised to experience a significant uptick in the frequency of consecutive dry days…

If we fail to keep average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, the region often known as the cradle of human civilization will increasingly face extreme heat waves of the kind that disable the human body’s ability to cool itself,” the FAO leader wrote.

He says avoiding that fate is within our means, but requires that governments muster the will to “increase food output by around 50 percent by 2050,” and we have to do that, he says, “without depleting strained natural resources beyond the tipping point.

Of course, food production requires plenty of water.

In the Gulf region particularly, says Graziano da Silva, no government can accomplish this alone. The region imports about half of all its wheat, barley and maize, and 60 percent of the region’s fresh water flows across national boundaries.

Graziano da Silva draws his hope for the future from the Near East and North Africa’s Water Scarcity Initiative , a partnership for water reform in the Gulf region.

This network of partners, which includes over 30 regional and international organizations, is working to provide member countries with opportunities to learn and share practices in the sustainable use and management of water.

Water scarcity in the Near East and North Africa region is already severe.

Fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world. They have fallen by two-thirds during last 40 years and are expected to drop at least more 50 percent by 2050.

Ninety percent of the region’s land lies within arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, while 45 percent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, according to the FAO.

At the same time, agriculture in the region uses roughly 85 percent of the available freshwater.

The Initiative is attempting to bring scientific tools to bear on these grim facts. Water accounting, food-supply cost curve, gap-analysis and regular monitoring of agricultural water productivity are some of the advanced tools that the Initiative will use to quantify the benefits and costs of alternative policy options to address food insecurity while sustaining water resources.

Data collection, management and analysis are the backbone of the Initiative that will support the strategic planning for water resources and provide evidence for policy formulation.

Making use of the expertise developed by FAO and its partners, the Initiative will advise governments and the private sector on the adoption of modern technologies and institutional solutions to increase the efficiency and productivity of water use in agriculture for the benefit of millions of farmers and rural communities in the region.

Options to save water all along the food value chain will be shared with the private sector, while governments will be encouraged to promote incentive frameworks that reposition farmers at the center of the sustainable management of land and water resources.

The Initiative will support the ongoing major policy processes in the region, including the Arab Water Security Strategy 2010-2030 and the Regional Initiative for the Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources and Socio-Economic Vulnerability in the Arab Region.

FAO’s work in the region ranges from emergency efforts in response to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen to running Farmer Field Schools in Egypt and helping the United Arab Emirates develop their first national agricultural policy.

The UAE is planning to roll out water meters on farms, while at the same time introducing smart subsidies targeting those who consume less water than average.

Benefits range from better diagnostic data on actual water use and incentives to actual conservation practices to allocating the savings to farmers who can invest in their businesses for even more efficiency.

That climate change poses such threats to an area known as the cradle of civilization underscores the need for urgent action to put agriculture at the center of the sustainability agenda,” says Graziano da Silva.

World Water Day, on March 22 every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

This year’s theme: Why waste water? is in support of Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

And now it’s not just a day, or just a week, like the prestigious annual World Water Week in Stockholm in September, but the United Nations has designated another decade to mobilize for water conservation and sustainable use.

The UN Water for Life Decade 2005-2015  a knowledge hub, a best practices program, encouraged communications regarding water and integrated into its work the accomplishments of the UN-Water technical advisory unit.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution “International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development” to help put a greater focus on water during 10 years.

Emphasizing that water is critical for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger, UN Member States expressed deep concern over the lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene as well as concern over water-related disasters, scarcity and pollution worsened by urbanization, population growth, desertification, drought and climate change.

The new Decade will focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic and environmental objectives.

To set the agenda in motion, UN-Water, in its 26th meeting in Geneva in February, decided on the establishment of a Task Force to facilitate its support to the planning and organization of the International Decade for Action – Water for Sustainable Development.

The Decade will commence on World Water Day March 22, 2018, and end on World Water Day, March 22, 2028. It could be the last decade that humanity can use to avert the predicted water crisis.

Featured Image: Mullah Neoka and his sons are wheat farmers in Afghanistan’s Herat province, once the bread basket of central Asia before land mines made farming impossible. HALO Trust, a UK-supported project to clear land mines has restored the land for agriculture. 2011. (Photo by Catherine Belfield-Haines / UK Department for International Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Healthy Leadership

49537763 - the word "pope" written in vintage ink stained wooden letterpress type in a partitioned printer's drawer.

Luxembourg, December 14, 2016  Healthy Leadership refers to a method and expresses an ambition. Health can be understood as an equilibrium, whereas sickness is telling the story of imbalances, broken ties and disruptions. If leaders are in charge of an organisation, they are responsible for the well-being of that living organism as well.

Business is not only about products, services and outputs, it’s about people, processes and production as well. Great leaders are strongly related to their workers and the production processes. They can “feel” their company and they feed it. They nurture it and care for it, not because of profit first, but because of their love for the venture they have created or operate.

The ambition of healthy leadership can be compared to the ambition of healthy people, healthy communities or a healthy environment. Health is an evolving state in our hands. Deteriorating it is easy and quick. Maintaining health is a matter of motivation often triggered by anxieties to fall ill. Reestablishing health, by contrast, is hard work. It requires  skills and outside support, most of the time for a longer period. World Health Orgainzation (WHO) and many Governments are promoting prevention as the best way to keep healthy.

There are many fitness-industries and approaches for healthy people and many workshops for healthy leadership. Whether you attend them because you feel obliged, or because you are afraid of negative shortfalls, or because training brings pleasure to you, doesn’t matter at first. Taking a second look at your motivation nevertheless changes everything you do. A successful fitness approach must fit with your personality to be effective!

Looking for new and innovative methods in the Leadership arena, brought me — as many others — to Pope Francis. He is perceived as a special Leader being the CEO of the biggest organised religion, the first international church structure and the most prominent opinion leader in social moral affairs.

Remember, when he took over from Pope Benedict XVI, the boat was in turmoils: finance scandals and priest abuses all over the place were the top news. More control and more of the same strategies stood against a new way of leadership on a ship which looks at nearly 2000 years of history.

Pope Francis first convinced because of his personality. He bowed to the faithful first and only after receiving their blessings and prayers he provided his blessing. Many observers and commentators describe at length both his humbleness and his resolve, but they overlook his method

But why is it so hard to see the method a contemporary leader uses on a daily basis? That is without any doubt because you normally do not see any methods in action. We are trained to look at people, at their input and their output. But what happens in people we do not see? What happens in leaders often remains a secret.

However, Pope Francis makes no mystery about his Leadership principles. He has even written down his four principles in his open public letters, like the Joy of The Gospel (Evangelii gaudium).

In my research and new book I condensed his public, but undetected  Formula into an octahedron for many to use in their daily leadership challenges. As everything in leadership starts with self-leadership I tested his formula for patients to find out, that it works as a tool for healthy self-leadership in critical situations.

I tested it for the healthcare workers, like physicians and nurses, to show that it also works for those at the front-end of healthy leadership. And thirdly, I applied it to the governance and management structures in healthcare, where again it worked.

But why should anybody deal with this Formula provided by a Pope? And why should one enter into a Formula tested for Healthcare, when you are not working in that field? First, because one day you might be a patient. Secondly, because Healthcare is only an example: you can replace sickness by crises and healthcare by crisis-management.

Thirdly, because you want to discover a successful method. Fourth, because as all great methods, the Pope Francis Formula, works as an open-source code without any request to your belief: you do not need to be religious to use it, because the formula is a purely pragmatic one based on reason only. Finally, because it is an open didactic instrument for many different businesses.

Eager to discuss that Formula with you!


Erny Gillen, gesund geführt im Krankenhaus, Foto Lex Kleren

Erny Gillen, gesund geführt im Krankenhaus, Foto Lex Kleren

Erny Gillen, Dr. theol, is an international expert in ethics and leadership. He just published “Healthy Leadership in Healthcare. The Pope Francis Formula”. With his “Moral Factory” he accompanies leaders and managers personally when it comes to difficult ethical dilemmas or leadership issues. He taught ethics in Luxembourg and in Germany for more than 20 years and led Caritas in Europe and internationally, Church administration as well as  businesses in Luxembourg. Until May 2015 he was President of Caritas Europa and First Vice-President of Caritas internationalis.

Summary: Pope Francis uses a concise and specific Formula when it comes to ethical leadership. His Formula fits into an octahedron and I call it “Healthy Leadership” because it’s all about us and it doesn’t exclude anyone. The Formula is an open method for people who want to achieve their goals together with others.


Video ReferenceDiscern & act 29 11 2016 © Erny Gillen  Twitter: @ErnyGillen and @moralfactory  

Facebook: erny.gillen LinkedIn: Erny Gillen 

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