Today (19 October) marks the annual launch of the Ecological Threat Report (ETR), produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and featuring exclusive research from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll.
Each year, the ETR analyses ecological threats to assess which countries are most at risk from conflict, civil unrest and displacement caused by ecological degradation and climate-related events.
Migration and degradation
The report analyses ecological risk, societal resilience, and peace for 228 countries and territories, 3,638 administrative districts and 250 cities, assessing their ability to manage their challenges between now and 2050.
The main finding from the ETR is that without concerted action, current levels of ecological degradation will worsen, intensifying existing conflicts, becoming a catalyst for new conflicts and increasing forced migration.
It also highlights 27 ‘hotspot’ 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 and MENA.
The report reveals that ecological threats, such as rapid population growth, water risk and food insecurity, will be exacerbated by climate change, causing mass migration and conflict.
56% of 228 countries and territories monitored by the ETR are facing extreme ecological threat.
The world’s 40 least-peaceful countries will increase their population by 1.3 billion by 2050, representing 49% of the world’s population.
Projections to 2050 show that much of sub-Saharan Africa will be unsustainable, with 95% population growth projected. Currently 738 million people lack adequate food and all but one country facing extreme water stress.
In 2021, almost 92% of the world’s undernourished people lived in low to very low peace countries.
Since 2019, the world’s concern over climate change has decreased by 1.5%. Citizens in three of the four biggest polluting countries have a low level of concern – China, India, and Russia.
Air pollution costs the world $8.1 trillion annually, or 6.1% of global GDP, claiming 6-9 million lives.
41 countries are currently facing severe food insecurity, impacting economic development, public health and social harmony, with 830 million people at risk, with 89% residing in sub-Saharan-Africa, followed by MENA with 49 million.
Severe food insecurity describes a state where an individual has exhausted their food supplies, and their health, nutrition and wellbeing are at serious risk.
The number of undernourished people has risen consistently since 2017, increasing by 35% in 2021 to over 750 million people.
Undernourishment, where a person’s habitual food consumption is medically insufficient to sustain them, is expected to deteriorate due to increasing ecological degradation, rising inflation and the Russia-Ukraine war. In 2021, almost 92% of the world’s undernourished people lived in low to very low peace countries.
Conflict and water stress
Food insecurity is connected to water stress, defined as ‘when more than 20% of the population do not have access to clean drinking water’; without adequate water capture it is impossible to provide sufficient food.
More than 1.4 billion people across 83 countries now face extreme water stress. Several European countries are projected to experience water stress by 2040, including Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal.
Most of the countries expected to suffer increases in water stress between now and 2050 are found in sub-Saharan Africa and MENA. Currently, all but one country in sub-Saharan Africa faces extreme water stress.