THERE’S a lot going on right now. At times it can feel like the world is tearing itself apart with more than enough problems to keep you up at night. You’re not alone. But if the issues of the day are playing on your mind, imagine how the people tasked to deal with them feel.
When polled by the World Economic Forum (WEF), leaders of the world shared their fears for the future and top of their list of concerns were environmental threats and the potentially catastrophic fallout from failing on climate change mitigation.
The Global Risks Report offers a unique perspective on the threats facing our world, by looking at not only those risks that are most likely, but also those that would have the biggest impact.
For the third straight year, extreme weather events remained in the top spot. But failed climate change mitigation rose from number five in 2018 to second place this year.
Here’s the full top 10 risks by likelihood:
1. Extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms, etc.)
2. Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
3. Major natural disasters (e.g. earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption)
4. Massive incident of data fraud/theft
5. Large-scale cyberattacks
6. Man-made environmental damage and disasters (e.g. oil spills, radioactive contamination)
7. Large-scale involuntary migration
8. Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
9. Water crises
10. Asset bubbles in major economy
Failure to tackle climate change is already proving both financially and socially expensive.
Devastating wildfires, tsunamis and other natural disasters killed over 10,000 people in 2018. The catastrophes fuelled above-average economic losses of US$160 billion, according to insurer Munich Re AG. Those from wildfires, in particular, have risen as summers become hotter and drier, with the November fires in California proving last year’s most expensive natural catastrophe at an estimated cost of US$30 billion.
“Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe,” the WEF report said.
Along with environment, technology also plays a profound role in shaping the global risks landscape for individuals, governments and businesses.
The study found a large majority of respondents expected increased risks in 2019 of cyberattacks leading to theft of money and data (82 percent) and disruption of operations (80 percent).
Around two-thirds of respondents expect the risks associated with fake news and identity theft to increase in 2019, while three-fifths said the same about loss of privacy to companies and governments.
President of the WEF, Borge Brende, warned there has never been a more pressing need for a collaborative approach if the world wants to solve these problems.
“The world is facing a growing number of complex and interconnected challenges – from slowing global growth and persistent economic inequality to climate change, geopolitical tensions and the accelerating pace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Brende warned.
“In isolation, these are daunting challenges; faced simultaneously, we will struggle if we do not work together.”