Global Risks, Receding Circularity and the Apocalypse Clock

From the Davos forum, the global risks report. Are we really moving towards a circular and sustainable economy? - By Miguel Varela, CEO of TEIMAS.

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The year 2023, which we have just entered, seems to be following the rhythm of these crazy, turbulent 20's. In just three weeks, we have several negative news in which environmental sustainability is a common element. In just three weeks, we have several negative news in which environmental sustainability is a common element.

From the Davos forum, the global risks report.

A classic at the beginning of the year, the World Economic Forum brings together political, cultural and economic leaders in the Swiss town of Davos. As part of this meeting, the Global Risk Report is presented, where thousands of experts contribute their views on the main risks we face as a society.

This edition, the 18th, is heavily influenced by the post-Covid hangover and, unsurprisingly, by the war in Ukraine and the inflation caused to a large extent by the energy and raw material supply problems resulting from geopolitical tensions.

Regardless of these circumstances, experts conclude that most of the dangers we face are directly related to environmental aspects. Extreme weather events, natural catastrophes, loss of biodiversity, crises over access to natural resources or failures to mitigate global warming are the main drivers in the short and medium term.  

Are we really moving towards a circular and sustainable economy?

And if we continue talking about January reports, we must mention the Circularity Gap Report promoted by Circle Economy, an impact organisation dedicated to accelerating the transition to the circular economy.

The main conclusion is surprising to say the least: only 7% of the global economy is circular... and falling! In recent years, the global circularity rate has fallen from 9.1% (2018) to 7.2% (2023). This means that more than 90% of the products and materials we use are wasted and disappear from the economic flow. It also means that we need to extract more and more raw materials from the planet.  

Extracting more materials does not in any way improve living conditions. The linear, throwaway economic model depletes natural resources, threatens biodiversity, pollutes water and soil, and affects people's health, directly and indirectly in the form of greenhouse gas emissions that increase the earth's temperature.  

While the focus is on energy consumption, achieving climate targets requires attention to the 45% of total emissions associated with the life cycle of products (extraction, manufacture, use and final disposal). The implementation of the circular economy can reduce the extraction of raw materials by more than a third and emissions from the manufacture of products by 45%.

90 seconds to midnight.

And to complete the trio, the most disturbing and photogenic element: the Doomsday Clock, the apocalypse clock, stands closer to midnight than ever before. The clock, created in the late 1940s to alert society to the dangers of nuclear weapons, changes its time annually, moving closer to or further away from midnight depending on the possibility of reaching a point of no return as a result of a health, nuclear or environmental catastrophe.

The council of scientists has this year moved the hands of the clock to 90 seconds past midnight, the closest it has been in its 75-year history, mainly due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the effects of climate change.

We agree that this is not the most flattering news to start the year but it is important that we reflect and become aware of the world we want, perhaps not so much for ourselves but for future generations. A long road is still to be travelled.


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