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Global Risk Report 2018: environmental and technological risks on the lead

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Often we feel our planet is at risk, but we have some difficulties in identifying these risks. So let’s ask ourselves: 1) What is the most likely risk? 2) What is the most impactful risk? To these questions the World Economic Forum gives an answer with the Global Risk Report. It is notable that before 2011 economic risks were the ones which dominated the global landscape. Then things have changed. Except for 2015, in each year at least two environmental risks have appeared among the top 5 Global Risks in Terms of Likelihood and the Top 5 Global Risks in Terms of Impact. They, together with technological risks, have dominated the landscape in 2018. Have the environmental risks become a reality?

 

 

Global Risk 2018: the raise of environmental risks
 
Each year the Global Risks Report works with experts and decision-makers across the world to identify and analyze the most pressing risks that we face. According to this survey, Climate and tech pose the biggest risks to our world in 2018. More striking is the fact that until 2011 ‘economic risks’ dominated the landscape, but after that, the real problems of the current civilization have emerged, that are the impending ecological crisis and the growing dependence from technology. In fact, three of the environmental risks surveyed have placed at the top of this year rank in 2018: Extreme whether events (1st in terms of likelihood and 2nd in terms of impact); Natural Disaster (2nd and 3rd); Failure of Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation (5th and 4th). This is not surprising as:
 
- September 2017 was the most intense month on record for extreme weather events, with Ireland experiencing its worst tropical storm in more than 50 years;
- The past year is also among the three hottest years on record, marked by major wildfires in the US, Chile and Portugal;
- There is now a 5% chance per decade that natural disasters could cause a simultaneous failure of maize production in China and the US (which together produce 60% of the global supply), leading to widespread famine and hardship;
- In 2017, German researchers found that there has been a 75% fall in the population of insects critical to food systems in the past 27 years, raising fears of “ecological Armageddon”.
- Pollution is today responsible for one in 10 deaths globally as 90% of the world’s population lives in areas with levels exceeding WHO guidelines. The creation of more megacities will only advance this trend;
- In 2017, CO2 emissions rose for the first time in four years;
Oceans continue to get warmer, and their capacity to absorb CO2 may be declining;
- Unfortunately, too little has been done to mitigate climate change and there is little hope that this will change anytime soon.
 
On the other hand, cyberattacks and risks of fraud and theft of data are among the most likely risks to occur. Attacks against businesses have almost doubled in five years, and incidents that would once have been considered extraordinary are becoming more and more commonplace. The financial impact of cybersecurity breaches is rising. Notable examples included the WannaCry attack—which affected 300,000 computers across 150 countries—and NotPetya, which caused quarterly losses of US$300 million for a number of affected businesses. Another growing trend is the use of cyberattacks to target critical infrastructure and strategic industrial sectors, raising fears that, in a worst-case scenario, attackers could trigger a breakdown in the systems that keep societies functioning.
 
 
Source: Global risk 2018
 
 
GR 2018: a detailed analysis
 
Let’s see the map of risks in 2018 and look at its upper side. We find that the most impactful risk is ‘Weapons of mass destruction’ but its likelihood is low. Just after it we find ‘extreme weather events’ that is also the 1st most likely risk. Then we find ‘natural disasters’ and ‘failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation’ which are also placed among the most likely risks. Then follow a social risk: ‘water crisis.’ And then a technological one: ‘cyberattacks’. Both are placed on the upper-left side of the map, that is, they are both impactful and likely. Then the other three risks worth to be mentioned are: ‘Food crises,’ ‘Biodiversity loss,’ ‘large scale involuntary migration.’
 
 
Source: Global risk 2018
 
 
 
Conclusion: Perception or reality?
 
The executive summary of the Global Risk 2018 open with these words:
 
“Globally, people are enjoying the highest standards of living in human history. And yet acceleration and
interconnectedness in every field of human activity are pushing the absorptive capacities of institutions, communities and individuals to their limits. This is putting future human development at risk.”
 
It is clear that also the international economic community is recognising that our current system is near to the collapse. The alternative are two: 1) we continue and wait for such a collapse to happen; 2) We act to prevent such a collapse to happen or at least to prepare a new societal model which will work after the ecological, economical and societal collapse that is going to occur.

 

Read more on Long Term economy, the unique model able to create a real sustainable economy.


 

Source: LTEconomy

 
 
Dario Ruggiero,
LTEconomy, 15 November 2017
   
 
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