German report proposes strategies for global risk prevention

The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) has published its annual report, entitled "World in Transition -- Strategies for Handling Global Environmental Risks". The experts of the Council highlight the increasing challenges presented to the international community by the risks inherent in global change.


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In 1997 alone, there were more than 13 million refugees world-wide. In the current year, millions of people are again exposed to floods, drought or storms. Due to the growing number of vulnerable people, geophysical risks such as earthquakes or meteorites and technological risks are also posing increasing hazards. These risks are threatening the natural basis of human existence, says WBGU. Their sources include climate change, the loss of biological diversity, soil degradation, burgeoning urbanization, population growth and technological developments.

To keep these risks to the international community as small as possible, the scientists recommend cross-cutting approaches for international policies. These include a world-wide alignment of liability law, the creation of environmental liability funds and the establishment of a “United Nations Risk Assessment Panel”.
Nevertheless, the Council also stresses that, as a matter of principle, political action must tackle issues as closely as possible to the sources of risks. Individual governments or the international community should only step in when insurance schemes or environmental liability funds are ineffective. Finally, the scientists stress the need to improve research promotion and to ensure that basic research free of vested interests can be pursued.

Given the great variety of possible specific risks, the Council takes the view that there can be no uniform risk prevention strategy. On the other hand, it is not practicable to require a separate strategy for each conceivable risk. This would paralyse societal development, considering that future development opportunities are inconceivable without a preparedness to take risks. For these reasons, the Council has defined six classes of risk and has formulated a framework strategy for each class.

Follow the link below to read the executive summary of the report.

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