On January 15, 2024, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting was held in Davos, Switzerland, under local time. The theme of the forum was “Rebuilding Trust.” The event aimed to engage in in-depth dialogue and exchange on urgent global issues such as economic growth, climate action, and nature, with the goal of promoting cooperation.
According to a report released by the World Economic Forum, extreme climate events could lead to economic losses of $12.5 trillion, and around 1.2 billion people could become “climate refugees.”
On January 16, the World Economic Forum released a new report titled “Quantifying the Impact of Climate Change on Human Health.” The report outlined the impact of extreme climate events on human health and their repercussions on the global economy. The report predicted that by 2050, the global climate crisis could result in approximately 14.5 million deaths, causing direct economic losses of around $12.5 trillion, and potentially leading to up to 1.2 billion “climate refugees” worldwide.
The report highlighted that extreme precipitation and drought would be the primary climate crises in the future, posing the greatest threats to life and property. Extreme precipitation could lead to floods and sea-level rise, with an estimated 8.5 million people losing their lives due to floods by 2050. Additionally, sudden floods could increase the likelihood of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. Regarding sea-level rise, the report noted that the current frequency of tidal floods is ten times higher than 50 years ago.
In addition to extreme precipitation, drought is expected to be a severe issue. The report predicted that by 2050, around 3.2 million people could die due to drought, leading to nearly $10 trillion in economic losses. Drought has been a global challenge throughout history, affecting not only Africa but also 40% and 20% of the populations in the Americas and Europe, respectively, facing drought crises.
The World Meteorological Organization confirmed that several climate indicators in 2023 broke historical records, and 2024 might be even hotter than 2023.
The report “Quantifying the Impact of Climate Change on Human Health” provides a realistic outlook on future climate crises. On January 12, the World Meteorological Organization confirmed 2023 as the hottest year on record, stating that temperatures have been higher every decade since 1980.
Furthermore, many climate indicators in 2023 broke records. The World Meteorological Organization’s “2023 Global Climate Status Report” highlighted record-high levels of greenhouse gases, a 50% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels compared to pre-industrial times, historical highs in sea-level rise accelerating, and record lows in sea ice extent in Antarctica.
The El Niño phenomenon in 2023 contributed to a global temperature increase, with the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Selassie Sholo, suggesting that 2024 might be hotter than 2023 as the full impact of El Niño is typically felt after its peak.
Carbon dioxide emissions have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, and there is a gradual reduction in fossil fuel use on both the supply and demand sides.
Climate change is directly linked to human activities, with carbon emissions from fossil fuel use being the primary cause. According to Carbon Brief, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-related activities exceeded pre-pandemic levels in 2023, reaching the record of 409 billion tons set in 2019.
Last year, a paradox emerged in the use of fossil fuels. Increased use of fossil fuels contributed to rising temperatures, leading countries to increase their use of fossil fuels to ensure power supply in response to high temperatures. For example, in China, thermal power generation increased by 6.09% from January to November, far exceeding the 0.9% growth for the entire previous year. About 80% of thermal power generation comes from coal. Overall, the scale and efficiency of renewable energy still need improvement, and it is challenging to replace fossil fuels in the short term.
Eight years ago, the Paris Agreement set a goal to limit global warming to below 2°C this century and strive for a limit of 1.5°C. However, the global average temperature in 2023 was 1.45 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels. Even a slight increase of a few degrees can have severe consequences. For instance, in drought-prone areas of Africa, a 2°C temperature increase could lead to complete water source depletion.
Time is running out, and many signs suggest a gradual reduction in the use of fossil fuels after 2024. For example, during the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) last year, countries reached an agreement to transition away from fossil fuels in the energy system in a just, orderly, and fair manner and accelerate action in the critical decade to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The International Energy Agency (IEA) also stated that to limit global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, fossil fuel demand must decrease by over 25% by 2030 and ultimately by 80% by 2050.
Overall, the climate crisis is an urgent issue, and discussions and cooperation on a global scale have intensified recently. Countries worldwide are placing unprecedented emphasis on this issue. In this context, fossil fuels, represented by coal and oil, are expected to gradually decrease on both the demand and supply sides. The IEA recently stated that with the accelerated growth of clean energy and the decline in fossil fuel usage, global emissions related to fossil fuels may peak in 2023.