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Business and science leaders align on doomsday threat

By FRANCES LAMBERTS

Who identifies “extreme weather events” and “natural disasters” as among events posing the greatest risk to prosperous economies around the world, in 2018 and the coming years?

You could be forgiven if the Sierra Club came to mind, other national environmental groups, or citizens harmed by last year’s horrific hurricanes.

But you would be wrong. These and other indicators of a planet under severe stress were among 10 items compiled in a “Global Risks Report,” by the World Economic Forum, in advance of global business leaders January meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

As Fortune magazine reported on Jan. 17, the weather disasters, global water and food crises and other indicators of a planet under stress “will constitute the likeliest risks to businesses” and have severe impacts on them.

Another risk, cited both as highly likely and having high-risk impacts, is “Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

In a different category of man made catastrophic events, nuclear war, or “weapons of mass destruction” heads the list of risk factors with the most severe consequences for business.

Could this be the first time in modern history that leaders in business and the natural sciences are this closely aligned in perception of hope for – or risk to – a prosperous future for man and the other inhabitants of the planet?

Also in January, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that the scientists had moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight. Using the midnight imagery of apocalypse and the countdown to zero idiom of nuclear explosions, they seek to convey the urgency of threats to humanity and the planet. As MIT Professor Noam Chomsky termed their assessment of the threats, “midnight means termination for the species.”

Underlying their close-to-doomsday judgment this year, the scientists stated that “world leaders have failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change.”

President Trump, attending the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, spoke to the world leaders as representing “the interests of the American People.” Prominent among these, he cited the stock market “smashing one record after another,” the corporate tax rate being lowered “all the way down to 21 percent” and “burdensome ‘anti-business’ regulations (being eliminated) at a record pace.”

His speech failed to mention any of the grave environmental threats which the Forum’s Risks Report had identified as humanity’s most urgent current challenges.

One might suggest that “the interests of ALL the American People” were not represented. Not of those Americans, in any event, who consider themselves as holding a share in the well being of the planet, for themselves and their children and their children.

On one of two overriding issues for which the Doomsday Clock was moved close to midnight – climate change, another American leader said this: “Climate change is real, it is caused by human activities, and it is already causing devastating harm here in the United States and all around the globe.

It is absolutely imperative that we boldly transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. The future of the planet is at stake.”

I hold with Bernie Sanders.