Climate breakdown: Environmental threats once again top global risk survey

WEF launches online learning platform

The greatest risk, according to the report, is the environment, including the increasing incidence of extreme weather events, natural disasters, biodiversity loss, and the failure to address climate change.

Attacks against businesses have nearly doubled in five years and incidents once considered extraordinary are becoming commonplace, the forum's new Global Risks Report 2018 warned at its launch today. Other threats that especially concern the roughly 1,000 experts in government, policy and business surveyed include cyberattacks, terrorist attacks and data fraud or theft.

A survey by the World Economic Forum finds that more than 9 in 10 experts are anxious about worsening economic or political confrontation between world powers, amid a trend toward "charismatic strongman politics".

What's more, for the first time in years, Co2 emissions increased in 2017, putting the Paris climate accord's goal of net-zero emissions by about 2050 even further out of reach. We have only had a few small tastes of what all-out cyberwar would be like, but it is enough to predict that global commerce would suffer incredible damage, quite possibly sufficient to trigger a doomsday cascade in the other fragile economic systems the WEF is concerned about.

The prospect of strong economic growth in 2018 presents leaders with a golden opportunity to address signs of severe weakness in numerous complex systems that underpin our world, such as societies, economies, worldwide relations and the environment, added the Global Risks Report 2018. Still, the report described income inequality as a "corrosive problem" in many countries and warned against complacency over the economic environment given high debt levels, low savings rates and inadequate pension provisions.

The world this year could see environmental degradation, cybersecurity breaches, economic strains and geopolitical tensions, says the World Economic Forum, calling for preparations to face sudden and dramatic disruptions. While weapons of mass destruction retained their place as the most destructive risk, their use was judged the least likely to occur.

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"Together we have the resources and the new scientific and technological knowledge to prevent this". "Businesses are increasingly dependent on technology and are aware that the openings hackers have are growing".

Economic threats feature less prominently after the International Monetary Fund raised its global GDP projections to 3.6% for this year, with WEF founder, Klaus Schwab, saying this presents an opportunity to strengthen the world's institutions.

With global growth recovering, concerns about the economy were down sharply.

John Drzik, President of Global Risk and Digital, Marsh said; "Geopolitical friction is contributing to a surge in the scale and sophistication of cyberattacks".

"It's not surprising that extreme weather events rank as the number one risk", said Alison Martin, the chief risk officer at the Zurich Insurance Group. "It's not yet too late to build a more resilient tomorrow, but we need to act with a stronger sense of urgency in order to avoid potential system collapse".

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