Climate, criminality and pollution: our old foes with new faces, familiar threats with neoteric amplifications.
Take climate change and cybercrime; neither is new, but many people seem not to have yet fully grasped the scope and scale of the damage they could present.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2014 report outlines the most likely risks and those considered to have the most potential impact (p4). Naturally climate change and cyberattacks are included, with a warning about ‘cybergeddon’, where hackers could enjoy overwhelming superiority, and massive disruption becomes commonplace.
Even more chilling is the report that power companies in the UK are being refused insurance cover for cyberattacks as their security systems have been found wanting (p5). Our news pages also highlight climate trends and the extreme weather that has gripped many parts of the globe (p4, p8).
This brings us to another old enemy – one that has undergone an alarming evolutionary intensification – pollution.
According to the WEF, income disparity is the risk most likely to cause serious damage globally in the next decade.
Even though we might expect pollution to be indiscriminate, affecting everyone alike, the reality is that some people are more equal than others. As in all kinds of disasters, wherever in the world, it is the poor who are most vulnerable to pollution: they can’t afford to buy expensive masks, filters or purifiers, nor can they move away to cleaner areas.
China has been in the headlines for its prolonged, dangerous levels of air pollution: smog has grounded flights, closed highways and affected tourism. China’s Premier Li Keqiang recently described pollution as: “Nature’s red light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development,” and pledged to bring it under control.
But China is not alone in needing to confront this challenge: pollution is a slow-burning, often overlooked crisis, one that can have catastrophic long-term consequences.