The Ecological Threat Report (ETR) 2021 is here, but what exactly is it and how is the report generated?

What is the Ecological Threat Report?

The Ecological Threat Report (ETR) is a composite index produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace. It measures the ecological threats that countries are currently facing, providing projections to 2050, to better understand the countries most at risk of experiencing significant deteriorations in peace.

Calculated at the sub-national level, it identifies the overall ecological threat faced by over 2,500 sub-national administrative units across 178 independent countries and territories.

How is the ETR index calculated?

The ETR is a composite index of five indicators, food risk, water risk, rapid population growth, temperature anomalies and natural disasters, combined into one overall score. The overall ETR score is calculated as the average of the individual ecological threats.

Why is the Ecological Threat Report important?

A rapidly changing environment are creating shocks that threaten the stability of countries, create conditions for mass displacement and exacerbate hunger and water stress.

The ETR can determine which countries have the most severe threats, the lowest coping capabilities and therefor are most likely to suffer from increased levels of ecological-threat related conflict.

Resilience, or the ability of nations to mitigate and adapt to new ecological threats, is important to ensure the stability of political institutions and prevent future social unrest and violence and it’s of great importance to know where help is needed.

What should a peace institute be concerned with ecological threats?

IEP aims to create a paradigm shift in the way the world thinks about peace, by using data-driven research to show that peace is a positive, tangible and achievable measure of human well-being and development.

We do this by developing global and national indices, calculating the economic cost of violence, analysing country-level risk and fragility, and understanding Positive Peace.

Ecological threats tend to interact and reinforce one another. Often, conflict arises as a result of competition for natural resources. In turn, the conflict itself destroys lives, livelihoods and governance, further depleting a region’s ecological resources.

The relationship between peacefulness and food insecurity, water scarcity, and population growth is complex. Adverse changes in the natural environment can lead to increased social tensions and civil unrest if societies do not have the necessary levels of resilience to deal with these threats. Similarly, conflict and uncontrolled population growth have well-documented negative impacts on the environment.

These two dynamics of increasing resource scarcity and conflict can create a vicious cycle where one increases the likelihood of the other, leading to societies failing. Therefore, to understand peace, we need to better understand the factors that drive peace, or hinder it.

It will be crucial in this rapidly changing environment to monitor ecological threats and how they coincide with changes in peace. By understanding the interaction between ecological threats, conflict and peace, countries can be better prepared to deal with the threats and ultimately preserve their levels of peace.

What are the major findings of the report?

The main finding from the ETR 2021 is that a cyclic relationship exists between ecological degradation and conflict. It is a vicious cycle whereby degradation of resources leads to conflict, leading to further resource degradation. The countries with the lowest levels of peace on average have the highest Ecological Threat scores indicating a higher level of risk.

Furthermore, the ETR has found that by 2050, half of the world’s population will live in the 40 least peaceful countries. This will be an increase of 1.3 billion people from 2020 levels.

Another finding was that global food insecurity has increased by 44 per cent since 2014, from 1.65 billion people to 2.37 billion people. It now affects 30.4 per cent of the world’s population. Underlining the severity of the finding,

The ETR found that three areas of the world suffer from the greatest risk of societal collapse as a result of ecological threat:

  • The Sahel-Horn belt of Africa, from Mauritania to Somalia;
  • The Southern African belt, from Angola to Madagascar;
  • The Middle East and Central Asian belt, from Syria to Pakistan.

What is the future of the Ecological Threat Report?

Humanity is on the verge of a major turning point, facing unprecedented difficulties and challenges unparalleled in its short history.

Many of these problems are global in nature, such as climate change, curbing emissions, decreasing biodiversity, depletion of the earth’s freshwater, and overpopulation. Such global challenges call for global solutions and require cooperation on a scale unprecedented in human history.

In a hyper-connected world, the sources of many of these challenges are multidimensional, increasingly complex and span national borders. For this reason, finding solutions requires fundamentally new ways of thinking.

IEP will continue to monitor and evaluate ecological threats with respect to their impacts on peace and conflict. This will provide timely measures for policymakers, researchers and corporations to use for effective intervention design, monitoring and evaluation.


Download the ETR 2021:

Ecological Threat Register 2021