Strong economic growth predicted for 2018 should provide an opportunity for world leaders to address serious challenges facing society, governments, the environment, and the economy, according to the 2018 Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Nearly 1,000 global experts offered their perspectives on the most pressing issues facing the world, with environmental concerns again outpacing all other concerns in terms of likelihood of occurrence and impact. Respondents named extreme weather events, ecosystem collapse, natural disasters, man-made environmental catastrophes, and the failure to adopt or implement climate change strategies as the most likely events with the greatest potential impacts. Economic risks have faded in importance, the WEF noted, as environmental issues take on more prominence. Joining environmental concerns among the five most likely risks were cyberattacks and theft or misuse of data.
Joined by strategic partners Marsh and Zurich Insurance, WEF emphasized the interconnected nature of global risks – degradation of the environment will lead to constrained food supply and lack of biodiversity, for example. WEF noted that human actions have already contributed to biodiversity loss at “mass extinction levels,” primarily related to destroying habitats via deforestation.
“The truly systemic challenge here rests in the depth of the interconnectedness that exists both among these environmental risks and between them and risks in other categories—such as water crises and involuntary migration. And as the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico has starkly illustrated, environmental risks can also lead to serious disruption of critical infrastructure,” WEF stated in the report.