New risk report highlights climate change and nuclear war as top global threats

An activist with a mask of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and another with a mask of President Donald Trump, march with a model of a nuclear rocket during a demonstration against nuclear weapons on November 18, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. CREDIT: Adam Berry/Getty Images.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report released on Wednesday indicates that world leaders see nuclear war, climate change, and cyberattacks as the leading global threats.

The report, released in the lead up to the group’s meeting in Davos, Switzerland — which President Donald Trump is attending next week — noted that:

…when asked about risk trajectories in 2018 the level of concern is clear: 93% of respondents expect a worsening of ‘political or economic confrontations/frictions between major powers’ this year. Perhaps more worryingly, nearly 80% of respondents reckoned that risks associated with ‘state-on-state military conflict or incursion’ and ‘regional conflicts drawing in major power(s)’ would be higher in 2018 than in 2017

It’s worth nothing that this is happening against the backdrop of a Trump administration that has not only been seen as recalcitrant on the fight against climate change by pulling out of the Paris Agreement and rolling back several environmental policies from the previous administration, but is looking to expand its use of nuclear weapons as well.

According to the New York Times, the Pentagon’s draft Nuclear Posture Review details a new U.S. nuclear plan suggesting the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear threats, including cyberattacks.

The United States generally sees the use of nuclear weapons as an extreme measure to be used in response to an extreme circumstance, such as a biological attack, and not, as the NYT notes, an expanded definition of such a threat to “include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” such as cyberattcks on U.S. infrastructure.

The draft report, currently under review, also calls for more nuclear weapons to be added to the roughly 4,000 the United States already has in its active stockpile, which, as one former State Department advisor told the Huffington Post, is already “more than enough to destroy the world many times over.”

The global threats report is even more considering, given the tense climate Trump has created for international affairs. He regularly issues threats on Twitter to North Korea and Iran, and the State Department continues to bleed staff and fails to attract new recruits. McClatchy reported this week that that “60 percent of the State Departments’ top-ranking career diplomats have left and new applications to join the foreign service have fallen by half.”

This leaves a combative administration with few experienced diplomats in crucial posts — from South Korea, which is making in-roads in dealing with North Korea on the thorny issue of the latter’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, to Haiti, which the president disparaged last week in a meeting with bipartisan lawmakers as a “shithole” country.

Trump selected Victor Cha, a Georgetown professor and senior advisor and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in December for the post in Seoul. If all goes well, Cha will start sometime next month — seven months after tensions with North Korea first escalated. A Chargé d’Affaires has been filling for the ambassadorial job in Haiti since August.