The 13th edition Global Risks Report, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), issues a stark reminder of our growing vulnerability to serious threats such as climate change, extreme weather and natural disasters, and cyber attacks.
According to the report, there remains an urgent challenge and opportunity to manage the global risks landscape. Despite new scientific and technological breakthroughs, we face increasingly complex, systemic risks that have the potential to cause a global systems breakdown.
“Humanity has become remarkably adept at understanding how to mitigate conventional risks that can be relatively easily isolated and managed with standard risk-management approaches,” the report’s preface says. “But we are much less competent when it comes to dealing with complex risks in the interconnected systems that underpin our world... When risk cascades through a complex system, the danger is not of incremental damage but of ‘runaway collapse’ or an abrupt transition to a new, suboptimal status quo.”
The report covers all major categories of risk, including economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological. It represents the results of nearly 1,000 surveys conducted with experts and decision-makers across the world to identify and analyze the most pressing global risks. The report finds the perceived level of risk has grown over the past year, with 59% of respondents pointing to an intensification of risk.
For the year ahead, environmental risks are predicted to have the biggest global impact over the next 10 years. The five environmental risks below rank in the top 10 for both impact and likelihood.
- Extreme weather events
- Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
- Natural disasters
- Man-made environmental disasters
- Climate-change mitigation and adaptation
Extreme weather events were deemed the single most prominent risk. All of the mapped global risks for 2018 are presented in the matrix below and an interactive map is available online.
The report highlights the growing strain humanity is placing on the systems we rely on for survival. Geopolitical tensions and the threat of cyber attacks further intensify these global vulnerabilities. The report cautions against complacency and inaction, and highlights the need to prepare for sudden and dramatic disruptions with a stronger sense of urgency.