What Are the 7 Global Challenges?
Increasingly, global issues affect everyone. Food prices are rising, water tables are falling, global ecosystem services are being depleted faster than nature can resupply them and human-induced greenhouse gases are raising temperatures.
These major challenges are transnational in nature and require collaborative action from governments, international organizations, corporations, universities, NGOs and creative individuals. What are the 7 global challenges?
1. Climate Change
The world is warming, glaciers are melting and polar ice caps are thinning. Human activity is the primary driver of global climate change. This includes changing land and ocean use (like converting wild places to farmland), direct species exploitation, and unchecked carbon emissions.
People are also at risk from rising sea levels, heat waves and droughts. The impact is greatest in developing countries, who have contributed the least to climate change but depend most on a healthy natural world for food and income. Unchecked climate change will also harm biodiversity and increase the spread of water-borne diseases and vector-borne diseases like malaria.
Inequality is a major obstacle to the eradication of poverty. A recent 2020 United Nations report warned that rising inequality was eroding trust in democracy and fuelling the rise of populist and authoritarian movements.
In addition, inequality impedes economic growth, increases the vulnerability of certain groups to economic crises, and prolongs the time it takes for those groups to recover from them.
To tackle inequality, we must bring the voices of marginalized communities into decision-making spaces like corporate board rooms and international climate conferences. We must also implement progressively equalizing policies such as wealth tax and inheritance reforms, as well as abolish tax havens that cost governments $500 billion to $600 billion a year in lost revenue.
3. Population Growth
In just 200 years, the global population grew from seven billion to more than eight. This dramatic growth puts a strain on governments, economic resources, social services, and geopolitical influence.
Rapid population growth increases air and water pollution; depletes natural habitats; accelerates the use of finite natural resources; and creates greater demand for adequate education, healthcare, and housing. These stresses can also contribute to civil unrest.
But the world’s future depends on more than fertility rates. Life expectancy continues to improve, but differences between countries remain significant. This disparity can have outsize planetary impacts, especially as richer countries tend to consume more resources.
4. Water Scarcity
About 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water today, and that number is expected to rise in the future. It takes between 2000 and 5000 liters of water to produce a single calorie of food, which puts extra pressure on water supplies around the world.
Climate change will exacerbate water scarcity in many regions, as higher temperatures lead to more unpredictable weather patterns and extreme events (like floods and droughts). It also reduces the amount of available freshwater in mountainous areas by melting glaciers and snow packs.
5. Cybersecurity Threats
Cyberattacks and data breaches are a serious problem across all industries. They can impact anything from personal computers and mobile devices to the operational technology used to control industrial processes.
Threat actors are highly varied in sophistication and motivation. They include beginner “script kiddies” leveraging ready-made threat tools, to well-organized groups backed by nation states.
Smart technologies have given rise to a new range of attack surfaces. People work in a hybrid home/office environment, and many connect personal devices to multiple networks throughout the day. Supply chains have evolved to involve digital information transfer, giving threat actors an opportunity to gain initial access to target environments.
6. Food Security
Despite significant progress, the world still struggles with food security. As population grows, there is a need for more food production and more food accessibility. But this can become problematic when conflict and other factors lead to the fight over resources needed for farming such as water and land.
Farmers are also reliant on weather patterns that are impacted by climate change, and when those fluctuate, it can leave families without enough to eat. The solution is working toward ethical market economies that provide fair trade, economic freedom, a level playing field, reduced corruption and insured property rights.
7. Ethical Market Economies
Wealth inequality is a global issue that undermines economic growth, and it has profound effects on people’s ability to live in peace. It is an ethical challenge that requires collective responsibility from all parts of society.
The world’s major religions and secular ethical frameworks all share a common goal of encouraging prosocial traits and suppressing selfish ones. Neoclassical economics, on the other hand, endorses egoism and elevates material pursuits to the status of virtue.
Free market economies need to be rooted in a system of property rights and submission to the law. This is the only way to prevent immoral and dishonest business behavior from destabilizing societies.