The global challenges described here are transnational in nature and require collaboration among governments, international organizations, corporations, universities, NGOs and creative individuals. They are not prioritized in any way; a better situation on Challenge 1 is no more or less important than that on Challenge 15.
For each of these challenges, futurists collected judgments and research conclusions through Delphi surveys. The results were distilled into fifteen Global Opportunities with overviews and strategies.
The Earth’s climate is changing rapidly as a result of human activity. The burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – adds heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Climate change is causing oceans to warm, glaciers to melt and changes in global weather patterns.
Increasingly intense hurricanes, flooding and droughts threaten the world’s population with hunger, disease and displacement. Warmer air and water impede crop growth, disrupt wildlife habitats and devastate marine ecosystems.
Unless we rapidly switch to sustainable energy sources, climate disruptions will multiply. Worst-case scenarios involve catastrophic, irreversible changes: the loss of entire ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, raising sea levels inches to feet; shifts in ocean thermohaline circulation (the stabilizer “conveyor belt”); and nonlinear collapses of the global carbon cycle.
Energy poverty and security
Energy poverty – the lack of access to sustainable, modern energy services and products – affects nearly half the world’s population. It contributes to malnourishment, unhealthy living conditions, and limited access to education and jobs.
The UNFCCC and the CBD reaffirm that economic development and poverty alleviation are the highest priority of developing countries. However, the development of a robust energy poverty reduction strategy is complicated by the fact that many different approaches exist for quantifying energy poverty and that underlying factors vary between regions.
This paper presents a comprehensive literature review of the link between energy poverty and food security in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It also applies state-of-the-art estimation techniques, such as fixed effects models, Lewbel 2SLS, Driscoll–Kray, and the generalized method of moments, to assess the causal mediation effect of energy poverty reduction on food security. The resulting evidence suggests that reducing energy poverty can significantly contribute to SSA’s food security. This is a key finding that can be used to inform policy makers in their efforts to address this global challenge.
Health security and disease
Health security is broadly defined as a country’s capacity to prevent and respond to infectious disease threats. This includes efforts to improve the capacities of countries to detect, identify, report, and mitigate epidemic and pandemic outbreaks that can affect populations across international boundaries and sectors.
This definition is at the heart of the work of the Global Health Security Initiative (GHS), which ranks 195 countries on their preparedness for epidemic and pandemic threats. The results are alarming; no country is fully prepared for a future outbreak.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted deficiencies in the functioning of health systems that need to be addressed to improve health security. These include poor health communication and population wide health literacy, the lack of adequate equipment in some low-income countries, and a tendency to focus on LMIC as the source of health risks. This security-based approach disproportionately draws attention away from other critical areas of the field, such as the need to invest in primary care and other broader health system improvements.
Food and nutrition security
Global challenges are interdependent, and addressing one does not make the others go away. The best approach is to address them collectively and in tandem. To this end, the US must make global food and nutrition security a central pillar of its diplomatic and national security engagement and amplify its investments in agriculture and food systems development at home and abroad.
The definition of food and nutrition security is broad and aims to ensure that all people have physical and economic access to sufficient quality and quantity of safe, nutritious foods for an active life. This includes ensuring that households and individuals can cope with short-term economic and climate shocks.
Nutrition security also considers food quality, a concept that is crucial given the high rates of diet-related diseases and food system inequality across America. Future Tisch Food Center blog posts will delve into these topics in greater detail.