Drawing on nearly two decades of original risks perception data, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024 warns of a global risks landscape in which progress in human development is being chipped away slowly, leaving states and individuals vulnerable to new and resurgent risks. Against a backdrop of systemic shifts in global power dynamics, climate, technology and demographics, global risks are stretching the world’s adaptative capacity to its limit.
These are the findings of the Global Risks Report 2024, released today, which argues that cooperation on urgent global issues could be in increasingly short supply, requiring new approaches to addressing risks. Two-thirds of global experts anticipate a multipolar or fragmented order to take shape over the next decade, in which middle and great powers contest and set – but also enforce – new rules and norms.
Environmental risks continue to dominate the risks landscape over all timeframes. Two-thirds of global experts are worried about extreme weather events in 2024. Extreme weather, critical change to Earth systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, natural resource shortages and pollution represent five of the top 10 most severe risks perceived to be faced over the next decade. However, expert respondents disagreed on the urgency of risks posed – private sector respondents believe that most environmental risks will materialise over a longer timeframe than civil society or government, pointing to the growing risk of getting past a point of no return.
John Scott, Head of Sustainability Risk, Zurich Insurance Group, said: “The world is undergoing significant structural transformations with AI, climate change, geopolitical shifts and demographic transitions. Known risks are intensifying and new risks are emerging – yet they also provide opportunities. Collective and coordinated cross-border actions play their part, but localized strategies are critical for reducing the impact of global risks. The individual actions of citizens, companies and countries can move the needle on global risk reduction, contributing to a brighter, safer world.”
Speaking to The Energyst, Scott stressed that despite the world becoming more fragmented and polarised, the consensus on climate change remains solid. This is due partly climate science and also experiences at a local level, wild fires, floods etc; that cannot be ignored. He also pointed out that businesses and individuals have a role to play that makes things happen on the ground in a way that intergovernmental co-operation never will.
The report, produced in partnership with Zurich Insurance Group and Marsh McLennan, draws on the views of over 1,400 global risks experts, policy-makers and industry leaders surveyed in September 2023. Results highlight a predominantly negative outlook for the world in the short term that is expected to worsen over the long term. While 30% of global experts expect an elevated chance of global catastrophes in the next two years, nearly two thirds expect this in the next 10 years.
“An unstable global order characterized by polarizing narratives and insecurity, the worsening impacts of extreme weather and economic uncertainty are causing accelerating risks – including misinformation and disinformation – to propagate,” said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum. “World leaders must come together to address short-term crises as well as lay the groundwork for a more resilient, sustainable, inclusive future.”