Global Risks Report 2019 warns of environmental risks and rising global tensions

Cheryl Sanders
January 20, 2019

In its annual Global Risks Report released on Wednesday, the WEF said environmental risks dominated the list given the number of storms, fires and floods that occurred globally past year.

World leaders are preparing to head to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, amid the riskiest global backdrop in years, according to a report from the event organizer itself.

Extreme weather events, such as floods and storms, topped the list of most likely risks and scored third place for impact. "What we need now is coordinated, concerted action to sustain growth and to tackle the grave threats facing our world today", said Brende.

Just under 90 per cent of people in the survey, conducted over September and October, expected worldwide trading rules and agreements to weaken further, as President Donald Trump's "America First" agenda weakens the body politic of global trade. "Shortfalls of investment in critical infrastructure such as transport can lead to system-wide breakdowns as well as exacerbate associated social, environmental and health-related risks", they write in the executive summary of the reportexternal link.

An annual WEF report - based on a survey of about 1,000 respondents drawn from the Davos community of business leaders, politicians, civil society and academics - shows climate change has become the dominant concern for three years running.


"It is no surprise that in 2019, environmental concerns once again dominate the list of major concerns".

In 2018, the global economy slowed more than most forecasters had been predicting and stock markets around the world posted their worst year in a decade.

Britain's upcoming exit from the European Union will be another key issue after British lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected the Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May had negotiated with the EU.

"There has never been a more pressing need for a collaborative and multistakeholder approach to shared global problems", it said.

Some 82% of respondents said they expected the risk of cyber-attacks leading to theft of money and data to increase in 2019.


"We now appear to be sleepwalking into a climate catastrophe", warned Alison Martin, the chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group (ZURN.VX), which partnered with WEF to publish this report. So, too, does the growing likelihood of environmental policy failure or a lack of timely policy implementation.

While there is no shortage of environmental risks on the horizon, Martin said she believes there is also cause for hope.

The forum says 65 heads of state and government-including Jair Bolsonaro, who is expected as part of his debut overseas trip as Brazilian president-and about 40 heads of global organizations like UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be on hand.

The report said rapidly growing coastal cities, particularly in Asia, are making people more vulnerable to climate change.


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