Almost 750 experts and decision-makers in the World Economic Forum’s multistakeholder communities responded to this year’s Global Risks Perception Survey. Respondents are drawn from business, academia, civil society and the public sector and span different areas of expertise, geographies and age groups.
The survey asked respondents to consider 29 global risks – categorized as societal, technological, economic, environmental or geopolitical – over a 10-year time horizon, and rate each according to their perceived likelihood of it occurring and impact if it does.
After its presence in the top five most impactful risks for the past three years, the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation has risen to the top and is perceived in 2016 as the most impactful risk for the years to come, ahead of weapons of mass destruction, ranking 2nd, and water crises, ranking 3rd. Large-scale involuntary migration was also rated among the top five for impact, as was severe energy price shock (increase or decrease).The risk rated most likely was large-scale involuntary migration, with last year’s top scorer – interstate conflict with regional consequences – giving way to the environmental risks of extreme weather events and the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation and followed by major natural catastrophes. [see The Global Risks Report 2016 Top 10 Risk Items and Risk of Highest Concern by Country documents]
Global risks that remain serious because of their combined impact and likelihood involve some economic risks, including fiscal crises in key economies and high structural unemployment and underemployment. These are complemented by cyberattacks and profound social instability. Their assessment reflects the potentially profound impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the economy and society and emphasizes the need for safeguarding future benefits.
Respondents were also asked which risks were related and could give rise to cascading risks. Three emerged strongly: the potential for climate change to exacerbate water crises, with impacts including conflicts and more forced migration, calling for improved water governance to adapt to climate change and accommodate a growing population and economic development; the need to address the global refugee crisis, adding emphasis to policies that can build resilience in addition to responding to the immediate crisis; and the risks of failing to fully understand the risks around the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how this transition will impact countries, economies and people at a time of persistently sluggish growth.
[from the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2016, 11th Edition, Jan 2016]