AXA: Global Warming Takes Center Stage as the Most Pressing Risk Across Every Corner of the World
In the latest AXA Future Risks Report, the world is in a state of "polycrisis," with global warming taking center stage as the most pressing concern across every region. This marks a significant shift, highlighting the gravity of climate change amidst rising social tensions, escalating AI risks, and the looming specter of cyber warfare.
The 10th edition of AXA's annual survey, encompassing insights from 3,500 experts in 50 countries and a diverse sample of 20,000 individuals across 15 nations, underscores the unprecedented consensus on the severity of climate risks. However, a mere 15 percent of experts believe that public authorities are adequately prepared for the worsening climate risks, a slight uptick from the previous year's 14 percent.
Equally concerning is that just 13 percent of experts believe the general public is fully aware of the implications and risks associated with climate change. This lack of awareness, insufficient funding, political hesitancy, and stakeholder coordination pose significant barriers to global climate action.
When considering the priorities for policymakers, more than a third of experts emphasize the importance of investing in mitigation and infrastructure. This is closely followed by the necessity of raising awareness to garner greater public and political engagement with climate risks.
It's worth noting that the report also highlights the persistent relevance of addressing other environmental threats. Risks related to natural resources and biodiversity rank sixth among experts and remain in the top 10 concerns for the general public. Additionally, pollution continues to be a source of apprehension, maintaining its eighth position from the previous year.
When it comes to climate change, a key point of concern for both the general public and experts revolves around physical risks from extreme weather events, which rank higher than financial and liability risks. This underscores the tangible and immediate impact of climate-related dangers.
Ulrike Decoene, chief communication, brand, and sustainability officer at AXA Group, highlighted the urgent need for bolder action to tackle climate-related risks.
"The shift towards low-carbon economies could be one of the biggest and fastest industrial revolutions ever," she said. "One of the most difficult as well, because it challenges our ways of life, within the limits of natural resources, and forces solidarity between developed and emerging economies, balancing the interests of present and future generations. Climate change can only be tackled collectively by working regularly with our partners."
This year's Future Risks Report also highlighted the "polycrisis" the world is facing as governments and businesses wrestle with a simultaneous escalation in conflicts, geopolitical tensions, the exponential emergence of new technologies such as generative AI, and the acceleration in global warming. The survey was also conducted before the outbreak of violence in Israel and Palestine, which has sparked a humanitarian crisis and is fuelling fears of a wider regional conflict.
The AXA Future Risks Report also brings to light the multifaceted nature of the current global crisis. Governments and businesses grapple with simultaneous escalations in conflicts, geopolitical tensions, the rapid emergence of transformative technologies like generative AI, and the ever-accelerating pace of global warming. It's important to note that the survey was conducted before the outbreak of violence in Israel and Palestine, which has further exacerbated global instability.
The report identifies a notable increase in concerns related to artificial intelligence and big data, rising from 14th place in 2022 to fourth place in 2023. Most experts and the public even call for a halt to AI research. Furthermore, for the first time, cybersecurity risks are ranked in the top three threats by both experts and the general public.
Thomas Buberl, CEO of AXA, said the global pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the worsening consequences of global warming had driven the emergence of a "world in polycrisis" over the past three years.
"Now we have to add rising risks linked to artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, as well as an increasingly unstable geopolitical framework," he said. "This accentuates the feeling of vulnerability of the general population, but also of the experts, in the face of these threats.
"Despite the scale of the challenges, we do not want to see the future as a risk. On the contrary, we need to demonstrate our collective ability to find appropriate and sustainable solutions. As an insurer, our role is to propose solutions, and we are fully mobilized to fulfill it."
Overall, the sense of vulnerability remains high, with 84 percent of experts feeling more vulnerable than five years ago, compared to 76 percent in 2020. Similarly, feelings of vulnerability among the public have increased by seven percentage points over the past three years. This underscores the pressing need for proactive and coordinated efforts to address the complex risks facing humanity in this era of polycrisis.