Disease? Nuclear war? Here are the top global risks for 2016

State collapse, migration, extreme weather and water crises are all on the list. But what’s number 1?

Deep Impact illustration city tidal wave tsunami

Still from the 1998 film Deep Impact

Survival on planet earth takes a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance. Obvious and obscure perils enshroud every second of every human’s life. But we largely ignore them. Nothing would happen otherwise, and that would be dangerous too.

But our carefully coded ignorance only goes so far. When threats become too glaring, we get jumpy, like spooked ponies.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2016 highlights various risks hundreds of experts expect to see over the coming year.

It’s not good news. Risks are apparently on the rise for 2016, for both impact and likelihood.

And the number one risk is all our species’ own fault.

The survey asked 750 experts for their assessment of 29 different risks, and the one which had the greatest potential for impact this year was agreed to be a failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

It is the first time since 2006 that an environmental risk has topped the league table, the World Economic Forum says.

The risk posed by climate change is greater than that of weapons of mass destruction, in second place, water crises, in third place, large scale involuntary migration, in fourth, and severe energy price shock, in fifth.

Here is the World Economic Forums two top ten risk lists, organised by likelihood and impact:

Global risks report 2016

Source: World Economic Forum

In the report, the researchers say: “This diverse landscape comes at a time when the toll from global risks would appear to be rising. A warming climate in 2015 is likely to raise the global average surface temperature to the milestone of 1°C above the pre-industrial era for the first time. The number of people forcibly displaced in 2014 stood at 59.5 million according to UNHCR, almost 50% more than in 1940. Data from the report appears to support the increased likelihood of risks across the board, with all 24 of the risks continuously measured since 2014 having increased their likelihood scores in the past three years.”

Happy New Year!

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Anonymous

    The only way to prevent the Bank of planet Earth going bust is by population control. Birth Control has not worked so now we are left with Death Control, via famine, war and disease. Death is better than poverty. Once there are no/few people left it will reopen for business until the earth is destroyed by the sun.

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