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21 January 2018, 01:24 | Katrina Lee
Weapons of mass destruction and climate change top list of global worries
The Global Risks Report 2018 - produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in preparation for its annual meeting of business, politics and economic minds in Davos, Switzerland, next week - offers a stark reminder of just what those challenges look like, and how important they are to overcome. Nearly 1,000 experts and decision-makers considered the likelihood and impact of 30 global risks over the next decade.
A WEF spokesman said: "When we asked almost 1,000 respondents for their views about the trajectory of risks in 2018, 59 percent of their answers pointed to an intensification of risks, compared with 7 percent pointing to declining risks".
The World Economic Forum says a new survey found more than nine in 10 experts are expressing concerns about worsening economic or political confrontation between world powers, as "charismatic strongman politics" increasingly affects geopolitics.
"Global risks, nowadays, are so interconnected that they can threaten the very systems on which our societies, economies, and worldwide relations are based", said Alison Martin, chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group, which contributed to the report, at a London news conference.
It highlighted "numerous areas where we are pushing systems to the brink, from extinction-level rates of biodiversity loss to mounting concerns about the possibility of new wars".
The greatest concerns for North American business leaders are cyberattacks, terrorism, asset bubbles, fiscal crises and the failure of adapting to climate change. The most significant risks for the coming year, according to the report, stem from the environment and include things like: extreme weather; biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; major natural disasters; man-made environmental disasters; and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation.
After a year of heatwaves, wildfires and hurricanes "extreme weather" has been seen as the single most prominent risk for 2018. Almost 80 per cent think risks associated with "state-on-state military conflict or incursion" and "regional conflicts drawing in major powers" will be higher than in years past.
"A widening economic recovery presents us with an opportunity that we can not afford to squander, to tackle the fractures that we have allowed to weaken the world's institutions, societies and environment", said World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Professor Klaus Schwab in a press release. Climate change is creating more frequent heatwaves, which will strain agricultural systems and raise the risk of breakdowns in the food supply, it added.
And it is likely to get worse in 2018, according to John Drzik, president of global risk and digital at Marsh, one of the project's strategic partners. The survey revealed that rising cyber dependency of people across the world has exposed them to adverse consequences of technological advances, and cyber crime like data theft and cyber-attacks.
"While cyber risk management is improving, business and government need to invest far more in resilience efforts if we are to prevent the same bulging "protection" gap between economic and insured losses that we see for natural catastrophes", he opined. On the other hand, weapons of mass destruction would have a catastrophic effect if deployed, but that scenario is thought to be relatively unlikely to take place.
"Unfortunately we now observe a "too-little-too-late" response by governments and organisations to key trends such as climate change", said Ms Martin. The financial impact of cybersecurity breaches is rising, and some of the largest costs in 2017 related to ransomware attacks, which accounted for 64% of all malicious emails, ' the World Economic Forum noted.
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