Economy and environment present greatest world risks in next decade

Resilience to global risk needs to be a priority: World Economic Forum

Economic uncertainty and environmental challenges are the greatest risks facing the world in the next decade, states a new report from the World Economic Forum.

The Global Risks 2013 report found that severe income disparity and unsustainable government debt were the top two most prevalent risks in a survey of more than 1,000 industry leaders.

Rising greenhouse gas emissions rounded out the top three most likely global risks. Survey respondents also voted the failure of climate change adaptation as the environmental risk with the most knock-on effects for the next decade.

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“These global risks are essentially a health warning regarding our most critical systems,” stated Lee Howell, the editor of the report and managing director at the World Economic Forum, in a press release. “National resilience to global risks needs to be a priority so that critical systems continue to function despite a major disturbance,” he added.

Global Risks 2013 analyzed three major risk cases of concern globally, including “Health and Hubris,” “Economy and Environment under Stress,” and “Digital Wildfires.”

“Huge strides forward in health have left the world dangerously complacent,” states the report. “Rising resistance to antibiotics could push overburdened health systems to the brink, while a hyperconnected world allows pandemics to spread.”

The report recommends more international collaboration and different funding models to deal with this risk. 

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On the risks that socioeconomic and climate change concerns present, John Drzik, chief executive officer of Oliver Wyman Group, a part of Marsh & McLennan Companies, said: “Two storms – environmental and economic – are on a collision course. If we don’t allocate the resources needed to mitigate the rising risk from severe weather events, global prosperity for future generations could be threatened. Political leaders, business leaders and scientists need to come together to manage these complex risks.”

The report also discusses the risks associated with the digital world. “While in many ways a force for good, the democratization of information can also have volatile and unpredictable consequences, as reflected in the riots provoked by an anti-Islam film on YouTube,” the report states.

Global Risks 2013 describes 50 global risks and groups them into economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological categories, which respondents were asked to rate in terms of likelihood and impact.

The report also highlights “X Factors” – emerging concerns that warrant more research. These include the rogue deployment of geoengineering and brain-altering technologies.

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