Commentary: Davos 2020 is about supply chains, disguised as climate change

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is hosting its annual conference for global academic, business, policy and political leaders beginning today, January 21, through January 24. The theme for the 2020 annual meeting is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.”

This is the 50th anniversary since the WEF held its first meeting in Davos, Switzerland in 1971.

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The WEF published its 15th annual Global Risks Report on January 15. As I started to read it, I quickly realized that the risks featured most prominently in the report are supply chain risks disguised as climate change risks.

In preparing the Global Risk 2020 report, the WEF asked more than 750 respondents to assess the likelihood, and severity of impact, of certain global risks over the next decade. The top five by likelihood were all related to climate change, and four out of the top five by impact were also related to climate change. Weapons of mass destruction appears second on the list of issues respondents feel will have the most severe impact over the next 10 years.

Why is the world’s climate changing?

In October 2006, the Geological Society of America adopted this position statement. The version below reflects revisions made in 2010, 2013 and 2015:

“Decades of scientific research have shown that climate can change from both natural and anthropogenic causes. The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2011), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (Melillo et al., 2014) that global climate has warmed in response to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. The concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been for many thousands of years. Human activities (mainly greenhouse gas emissions) are the dominant cause of the rapid warming since the middle 1900s (IPCC, 2013). If the upward trend in greenhouse gas concentrations continues, the projected global climate change by the end of the 21st century will result in significant impacts on humans and other species. The tangible effects of climate change are already occurring. Addressing the challenges posed by climate change will require a combination of adaptation to the changes that are likely to occur and global reductions of CO2 emissions from anthropogenic sources.”

Similar statements have been issued by other scientific associations in the United States and elsewhere.

Basically, what these statements say in different ways is that the supply chains on which human civilization has been built must be refashioned. Man-made supply chains are having a severe adverse impact on natural supply chains and ecosystems, and mankind’s current path is unsustainable.

One only needs to watch the news to be reminded of this in very stark terms.

The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation captures this sentiment in our mantra: “The past ran on supply chains. The present runs on supply chains. The future will run on supply chains. The world is a supply chain.”

In our essay, The World Is A Supply Chain, my co-founder and I explain why the climate crisis is a reflection of the effect man-made supply chains have had on the world.

Hopefully, after they are done talking, celebrating and partying in Davos, the world’s most powerful academics, business leaders, corporate executives, politicians and policy experts will buckle down, individually and collectively, to the serious and necessary business of catalyzing and facilitating the sort of innovations and technologies that will be required to solve the problems they say are the biggest crises the world must confront over the next decade.

I wish I could say I feel optimistic. Do you?