Addressing Global Risks with the Power of Open Source

Climate and environmental issues are intrinsic to many of the core global risks facing our planet, according to the WEF’s Global Risks Report 2023, which will likely come as no surprise given the increasing frequency and severity of weather-related disasters seen around the world. However, says Managing Director Saadia Zahidi in the report, these are also the risks for which we are the least prepared.

The report, released in advance of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, “highlights the multiple areas where the world is at a critical inflection point.” It also serves as “a call to action, to collectively prepare for the next crisis the world may face and, in doing so, shape a pathway to a more stable, resilient world,” Zahidi says. 

In this article, we’ll look at the top global economic threats and explore how open source can help.

Short- and Long-Term Risks

“The next decade will be characterized by environmental and societal crises, driven by underlying geopolitical and economic trends,” the report says. For example, the report cites the cost-of-living crisis as the top short-term risk and failure to mitigate climate change as critical in both the short and long term. Interestingly, the ongoing global pandemic was not cited as a top risk in either category.

Specific risks (as identified through the Global Risks Perception Survey) include the following:

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Top five short-term risks (next two years)

  • Cost of living crisis
  • Natural disasters and extreme weather events
  • Geoeconomic confrontation
  • Failure to mitigate climate change
  • Societal polarization and erosion of social cohesion

Top five long-term risks (next 10 years)

  • Failure to mitigate climate change
  • Failure of climate change adaptation
  • Natural disasters and extreme weather events
  • Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
  • Large-scale involuntary migration

Open Source Can Help

The report also emphasized the relationships between these risks, noting that “leveraging the interconnectivity between global risks can broaden the impact of risk mitigation activities.” This interconnectedness also means that developing successful solutions will require cross-society collaboration

This is where open source can help.

Consider the energy sector and the path to net zero carbon emissions, for example. Roberto Bocca, Member of the WEF Executive Committee, says, “Energy is a foundational block of the global economy,” and, as such, “the crisis has forced us to fundamentally rethink the way in which we produce, deliver and — importantly — consume it.” 

Fully two years ago, the late Shuli Goodman, Executive Director of LF Energy, said:

“In this moment, the energy industry must learn from its mistakes and come together through open source technology and shared development. This is the key to speeding up innovation ...” 

Generally, collaborative open source efforts help speed innovation by distributing development efforts, lowering costs, and decreasing time to market, and “adopting an open source strategy that maximizes flexibility, agility, and interoperability … will help the energy sector innovate at the speed of technology,” noted Goodman.

Specifically, "LF Energy’s focus on decarbonization of power systems through digitalization and open source represents an unprecedented change for electrification, electric mobility, and grids," Goodman said.

The following LF Energy projects, for example, show how open source is already working to address energy-related issues:

  • OpenEEmeter — an open source toolkit for implementing and developing standard methods for calculating normalized metered energy consumption
  • OpenSTEF — provides a complete software stack that forecasts the load on the electricity grid
  • PowSyBl (Power System Blocks) — an open source library dedicated to electrical grid modeling and simulation 

Call to Action

The call to action is clear, according to the WEF report: “This is the moment to act collectively, decisively and with a long-term lens to shape a pathway to a more positive, inclusive and stable world.”

In the words of Shuli Goodman, “the effect of climate change on our environment provides a stark reminder that we're in a race against time to save our planet. … we cannot use a slow, patchwork response that creates more chaos, hardship, and civil strife than we already see today.”

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