World Economic Forum: global risks map 2020

World Economic Forum: global risks map 2020

March 06, 2020

World Economic Forum: global risks map 2020

From geo-political fragmentation to economic challenges, including climate change and its impact on the environment, the World Economic Forum provides a snapshot of the risks to the planet.

The world can’t wait for the fog of geo-political and geo-economic uncertainty to lift. These are the first lines of the summary of the 15th Global Risks Report 2020 published by the World Economic Forum, now in its 50th year. The results of the report are based on the responses of around 800 experts and decision-makers in various areas of the world economy. “The challenges identified require collective and immediate action and stakeholders must act quickly in a highly fragmented world scenario” explain the experts. “This report is part of the Global Risk Initiative launched by the Forum a few years ago” comments Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, who then adds: “We hope these initiatives help stakeholders develop sustainable and integrated solutions to face these challenges”.  

Environment in the front row

For the first time in the history of the report, the top 5 places on the list of the most likely risks are occupied by a single theme: the environment. And the environment also occupies three of the top 5 places in terms of impact. “The failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change” is of particular concern and comes first on the list of risks with the greatest impact and second on that of the most likely risks. 

In fact, climate change is proceeding faster than expected, with some of the hottest years ever recorded, more intense and frequent natural disasters and extreme weather events in different areas of the world. “At this rate, by the end of the century, the temperature will have increased by 3 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era, twice as much as recommended by experts to avoid the worst in economic, social and environmental terms”, says the report. Another deeply felt environmental issue is undoubtedly the loss of biodiversity. “The rate at which species are becoming extinct is tens or hundreds of times faster than in the last 10 million years, and is increasing” experts explain, pointing out that the loss of biodiversity has catastrophic consequences ranging from a lack of food to the entire supply chain being broken. 

Fragile and fragmented systems

In a highly fragmented geopolitical scenario, countries are wondering about the real value of long-term alliances with other states; nationalist pressures are growing and with them also national agendas. “If stakeholders focus on immediate geostrategic benefits and fail to recreate, or at least adapt, the coordination mechanisms, the opportunities to act on priority issues could be lost” says the report. 

The document also highlights the challenge of negative pressure on the global economy linked to macroeconomic fragility and financial inequalities. In this scenario, the risk of stagnation rises and the challenge of a downward economy could persist throughout the year. 

In addition to this there is the discontent felt by many citizens about the actions put in place by governments to deal with social and economic problems: experts explain that without economic and social stability they could find themselves without the fiscal, economic and political tools to deal with the risks.

The fragmentation also affects the digital world, with extreme inequalities in Internet access and a growing risk of potentially very dangerous cyber-attacks. Last but not least, the risks to health systems that may soon prove inadequate to manage old and new health challenges, including, as demonstrated by the recent SARS-CoV2 epidemic, the increase in infectious diseases and pandemics related to global mobility. Society is changing and so is the burden of disease and people's attitudes towards drugs and vaccines, thereby jeopardizing the final victory in the fight against health challenges. 

It still makes sense for stakeholders to evaluate and deal with these risks, but the window of opportunity is closing,” the WoF experts conclude with a certain amount of pessimism

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