Although we’re just a little over 20 years into the new millennium, our planet today is markedly different from the one we left behind in 1999. From the rise of tech, the web, and e-commerce to the growing realization that climate change is a real and present danger, the global threats to humanity have constantly evolved and changed over the years, making the world seem a more dangerous place today than ever.
2021’s biggest global threats
In a year that’s largely been dominated by the spread of Coronavirus, it’s often easy to forget the considerable problems faced by nations around the world. Below are just a few of the problems experts suggest we should be concentrating on how to mitigate dangers in the future.
Unsurprisingly, the fear of contagious diseases remains high after the last 18 months, which saw the world ravaged by COVID. However, while the disease itself is a risk to humanity, perhaps of greater danger and significance to humankind is the potential economic fallout caused by the virus.
Industry analysts suggest that COVID has rocked the global economy and been particularly harmful to poorer nations. Moreover, it has likely caused significant geopolitical instability that is forecast to continue for the next five to ten years.
Meanwhile, medical experts say we may not quite be out of the woods yet when it comes to Coronavirus and, while vaccines are bringing much-needed protection to the vulnerable, new strains are still being identified. Couple that with the oncoming winter season and expected massive growth in flu cases, and the worst of the virus might not be quite over yet.
The threat from climate change
Since the late 80s, climate scientists the world over have been foretelling a future with melting glaciers, rising oceans, and increased temperatures – however, it seems 2021 was the year when the predictions came true, and dangers finally hit home.
This year saw the hottest summer on record – a trend that has been continuing for many years previous. These days, almost all scientists agree that it’s no longer in question whether the world is heating up but rather by how much and what can we do to slow the change.
We all have a part to play in slowing the damage being done to our planet – everything from changing the way we heat our homes to eating less meat and ditching our use of plastics. Governments, companies, and individuals alike all have a responsibility to start making changes.
These days, the web and tech are now an interwoven part of society – so much so that technology has changed everything from how we communicate to how we shop and watch media. Our reliance on tech has never been bigger in both our work and social lives – all of which has given rise to today’s super-companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook.
However, with this reliance comes an increasing risk from cybercrime. In 2021, the global costs of cybercrime are expected to tally $6 trillion – with that figure increasing year on year by 15% until 2025, when online criminality is forecast to cost a staggering $10.5 trillion globally. Indeed, the revenues generated by cybercrime make it the world’s third-largest economy, just behind America and China by way of like-for-like comparison.
Worse yet, today’s hackers use increasingly inventive and sophisticated tactics to infiltrate networks and compromise data – everything from phishing to MitM attacks. Also, there’s is a worrying trend for cybercriminals to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to attack individuals and companies, largely automating the process.
It’s also worth remembering, no one is 100% safe from the dangers of cybercrime. If you, your family, or your company operate in any way online, you could potentially fall victim to an attack.
IT infrastructure failure
Linked to the above, another clear danger facing today’s modern world is the prospect of a mass IT infrastructure failure – literally, the web suddenly going down. If you’ve ever had a computer breakdown or your cellphone failed, you’ll have quickly realized just how much we need tech in our everyday lives.
These days, it’s almost impossible to think of any company that doesn’t rely on digital services to at least some degree. From the one-man-band using simple emails and web browsing to help with work right up to the massive global multinationals crunching Big Data, pretty much all of today’s firms need tech to operate.
A failure of the global IT infrastructure wouldn’t just stop there. However – it would have a huge impact on all parts of society, everything from healthcare, banking, and city traffic light systems. In the event of a mass IT failure, the world as we know it would grind to a halt.
The threat from terrorism
While many analysts argue about the effectiveness of military action in both Iraq and Afghanistan, few are in any doubt that the removal of forces from the latter has significantly increased the risk of terror groups forming again in the country. Indeed, the situation around most of the Middle East region remains precipitous.
For more information on the terror threats facing the US today, check out organizations like the FDD, which discuss a Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, explaining in detail the present and emerging dangers.
The loss of biodiversity
Biodiversity loss is tied to the problems caused by mankind in terms of global warming and the impending climate catastrophe the world faces globally. In simple terms, a loss of biodiversity will result in millions around the planet facing problems with the supply of foodstuffs plus a shortage of clean, fresh water – both of which will be more vulnerable to disease or pests.
It’s generally accepted that there are five main drivers behind biodiversity loss:
The loss of habitats – The planet’s ecosystem is remarkably fragile and interconnected. Habitat loss results in problems with biodiversity through the damage or destruction of plants, soils, and nutrients, all required for plant and animal life.
Over-exploitation of the world’s resources – Overfishing, overhunting, and over-farming all have the potential to deplete animal stocks and, in worst-case scenarios, drive the extinction of some species.
The dangers of invasive species – An invasive species is one that is foreign to its environment. These non-native species often have a competitive edge over their local counterparts, typically resulting in their domination either by eating food resources more quickly or taking over habitats. Also, some invasive species may prey on the local species, essentially eliminating them to gain control.
Reduced biodiversity through pollution – Pollution can have a massive impact on the biodiversity of a region. Pollution results in non-native, harmful substances taking hold in an area, frequently with the knock-on effect of damaging plants, animals, and other local resources. This often results in lower quality food or water and can even force the mass migration of species to avoid being wiped out.
The effect of global warming and climate change on biodiversity – Rising levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and similar greenhouses in the world’s atmosphere (caused largely by human activity over the last two centuries) result in overall warming of the planet. As the intensity of these gases increases, the planet’s ability to regulate its temperature drops, leading to the huge changes we’ve seen over the last 40 or so years. As a result, less predictable, changing weather (in particular changing rainfall and increased temperatures) upsets the natural order of plant and animal growth. While global warming isn’t a direct cause of biodiversity loss, its longer-term, wider-ranging effects have been proven to severely impact ecosystems and the plant and animal life that exist within them.