Environmental issues top worries for those heading to Davos

In this Dec. 31, 2019, photo provided by Siobhan Threlfall, fire and thick smoke remains the village of Nerrigundah, Australia. The tiny village has been among the hardest hit by Australia's devastating wildfires, with about two thirds of the homes destroyed and a 71-year-old man killed. (AP Photo/Siobhan Threlfall)

LONDON – Following another year of extreme heat and ice sheet melt, environmental issues are now considered to be the top five long-term risks confronting the global economy, organizers of next week's gathering of elites in the Swiss resort of Davos said Wednesday.

Citing a survey of more than 750 key decision-makers, the World Economic Forum said catastrophic trends like global warming and the extinction of animal species would be front and center at next week's meeting.

But while the environment has surged up the rank of priorities for policymakers ahead of risks like cyberattacks and recession, concerns are compounded by growing international divisions, evident in disputes like the trade war between the United States and China.

“The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning," said Borge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum.

“This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks.”

Brende said the world has a decade to deal with the climate emergency, and that not doing so within that time frame would be akin to “moving deckchairs on the Titanic."

Those surveyed inthe WEF's Global Risks Report 2020 identified economic disputes as the number one risk to the global economy this year. For the longer-term outlook, however, environmental concerns accounted for the top five risks.

The findings illustrate how environmental issues have become more important to the public and to policymakers, particularly after campaigning efforts from the likes of Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion group . Evidence of a man-made climate emergency is piling up, from the wildfires in Australia to heatwaves that made 2019 the second-warmest year ever recorded on Earth and the past decade as a whole the hottest.