Examples of Global Challenges
A growing number of global challenges will affect our everyday lives. They can disrupt jobs, businesses, communities and the nature of power.
They are often complex and intersect with one another. They include achieving sustainable development, guaranteeing access to clean water, fostering ethical market economies and fighting new as well as re-emerging diseases.
1. Climate Change
The Earth’s climate is changing rapidly, with rising global temperatures largely caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), deforestation, and land-use changes. These activities increase the amount of “heat-trapping” greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Despite significant progress this year, we still have an enormous climate challenge ahead of us. And it’s one that can’t be solved without greater global cooperation, including reforming governance and tackling corruption. It is also a challenge that’s deeply interconnected with other issues on this list. The COVID-19 pandemic has blown holes in our collective efforts.
2. Water Issues
Millions of people lack access to clean, safe water. This is especially true in developing countries. Lack of clean water can cause a variety of health issues. It can make diseases more dangerous and difficult to treat. It also limits the ability of families to complete quotidian tasks.
Water scarcity can be caused by natural and human factors. Natural causes include climate change, where a region may experience droughts and floods as the weather becomes more unpredictable. Human causes include poor water management.
The solution to these global challenges is complex. It requires the cooperation of many countries and the coordination of many different systems, laws and policies. This is why global issues often need to be solved by international organizations or coalitions.
3. Energy Issues
The world needs to move beyond fossil fuels to a sustainable energy path. This is a global challenge that will affect jobs, industries and communities, changing the nature of power and what it means to be human.
In 1996 The Millennium Project asked futurists to collect judgments and research conclusions about developments that could become critical to the future, then distilled them into fifteen global challenges with overviews and strategies. This was a shift from the previous approach of stressing problems and leaving out opportunities. The first of these global challenges is on the left side of the scatter plot above – people living in energy poverty.
4. Population Growth
Overpopulation is a global challenge. It results in higher demand for resources, more waste production and a greater risk of environmental damage.
A population’s ability to grow depends on several limiting factors such as food availability, competition from other species, and habitat space. These limiting factors are usually density-dependent.
The growth of the world’s human population has been propelled by a lower death rate and improvements in women’s education and access to contraception. But these trends may not continue indefinitely.
Poverty is a lack of access to the basics of life: food, water, healthcare and education. It can also be a result of discrimination or other forms of social injustice, which can prevent people from getting the jobs and skills they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
It can be made worse by natural disasters like drought or floods, which can cause families to lose their livelihoods, and conflict, which can keep businesses and investors away. It can be addressed by social welfare programs, private philanthropy and community development projects.
6. Human Rights Issues
Severe climate change threatens human rights, for example, by causing food insecurity. Women still struggle to get access to reproductive justice, including abortion, despite progress in many countries.
Some people, including some politicians, social and economic players, and civil society activists, use the language of human rights without a commitment to the standards that the term embodies. This can be due to an impoverished understanding of what human rights require or a desire to misrepresent their own views as respecting human rights in order to gain legitimacy.
Feminists object that standard lists of human rights do not adequately take into account the specific degradation and violation of women’s rights.
Many people around the world find themselves fleeing their homes because of wars, famines or poverty. These are global challenges and need to be addressed by everyone, including the governments and citizens of each country.
Persecution and other natural disasters (often caused by climate change) can also force people to seek refuge in another country. But the current system only provides for a small percentage of refugees to be helped by wealthy countries, and the majority are left in poorer ones.
The solution is to make refugee aid more effective, especially for those who need a decent livelihood that’s free from exploitation and harmful working conditions like bonded labour. This needs to be done with the help of local and international NGOs.