The Ecological Threat Report (ETR) produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace 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.
The report analyses ecological risk, societal resilience, and peace for 228 countries and territories, 3,638 administrative districts, and 250 cities, assessing their ability to manage their challenges between now and 2050.
The ETR focuses on four different threats that directly relate to drivers of conflict. These threats are classified in severity from Low to Catastrophic. A country is defined as facing a catastrophic threat if it exceeds one or more of the following thresholds:
• Food Security: More than 65% of the population could not afford food for their families in the past year.
• Disasters from Natural Events: More than 50 lives lost per 100,000 (or more than 3,000 displacements per 100,000) per year on average to natural events since 2016.
• Population: More than 70% increase in population by 2050.
• Water Stress: More than 20% of the population does not have access to clean drinking water
The ETR is calculated at the sub-national administrative level of a country, according to its relative threat level on four domains. A sub-national score is calculated as the maximum severity it faces across all four threats.
A rapidly changing environment is 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, and the lowest coping capabilities and therefore 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.
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.
The main finding from the ETR is that without concerted action, current levels of ecological degradation will worsen, intensifying existing conflicts, becoming a catalyst for new conflicts, and increasing forced migration.
A cyclic relationship exists between ecological degradation and conflict. It is a vicious cycle whereby the 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, 49% of the world’s population will live in the 40 least peaceful countries.
Another finding is that 41 countries are currently facing severe food insecurity, impacting economic development, public health, and social harmony, with 830 million people at risk, with 89% residing in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by MENA with 49 million.
The world is less concerned about climate change than it was in 2019. Citizens in three of the four biggest polluting countries have a low level of concern – China, India, and Russia.
The ETR found that three areas of the world suffer from the greatest risk of societal collapse as a result of ecological threats:
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.