The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024, released on January 10, warns of increased risks due to a number of factors.
“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, in a statement. "World leaders must come together to address short-term crises as well as lay the groundwork for a more resilient, sustainable, inclusive future."
Economic uncertainty and development in decline
The coming years will be marked by persistent economic uncertainty and growing economic and technological divides. Lack of economic opportunity is ranked sixth in the next two years. Over the longer term, barriers to economic mobility could build, locking out large segments of the population from economic opportunities. Conflict-prone or climate-vulnerable countries may increasingly be isolated from investment, technologies and related job creation. In the absence of pathways to safe and secure livelihoods, individuals may be more prone to crime, militarization or radicalization.
Planet in Peril
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 materialize over a longer timeframe than civil society or government, pointing to the growing risk of getting past a point of no return.
Responding to risks
The report calls on leaders to rethink action to address global risks. The report recommends focusing global cooperation on rapidly building guardrails for the most disruptive emerging risks, such as agreements addressing the integration of AI in conflict decision-making. However, the report also explores other types of action that need not be exclusively dependent on cross-border cooperation, such as shoring up individual and state resilience through digital literacy campaigns on misinformation and disinformation, or fostering greater research and development on climate modelling and technologies with the potential to speed up the energy transition, with both public and private sectors playing a role.
Carolina Klint, Chief Commercial Officer, Europe, Marsh McLennan, said: “Artificial intelligence breakthroughs will radically disrupt the risk outlook for organizations with many struggling to react to threats arising from misinformation, disintermediation and strategic miscalculation. At the same time, companies are having to negotiate supply chains made more complex by geopolitics and climate change and cyber threats from a growing number of malicious actors. It will take a relentless focus to build resilience at organizational, country and international levels – and greater cooperation between the public and private sectors – to navigate this rapidly evolving risk landscape.”
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. Ninety-one per cent of risk experts surveyed express pessimism over the 10-year horizon. Known risks are intensifying and new risks are emerging – but 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, countries and companies can move the needle on global risk reduction, contributing to a brighter, safer world.”