It also said "identity politics" could fan geopolitical and domestic risks

Violet Powell
January 21, 2018

For the second year running, business and political leaders think the world's biggest threat is extreme weather, according to the latest Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) published today.

Its annual Global Risks Report says that in 2017, the environment was by far the greatest concern raised by experts.

Meanwhile, the majority of experts surveyed reported a heightening of all risks this year, with 59 per cent pointing to an intensification of risks, compared to just seven per cent reporting declining risks.

A deteriorating geo-political landscape was partly blamed for the pessimistic outlook in 2018, with 93 per cent of respondents saying they expected political or economic confrontations between major powers to worsen and almost 80 per cent expecting an increase in risks associated with war involving major powers. More than 90% of survey respondents said they expect an increase in frictions between major global powers, while 80% said they also expect an increase in risks stemming from state-on-state military conflict and large-scale cyber attacks.

The study highlighted numerous areas where systems are being pushed to the brink - from extinction-level rates of biodiversity loss to mounting concerns about the possibility of new wars. Economic issues are said to be less of a pressing concern than environmental factors, although this doesn't mean that there's any room for complacency. According to the report, the major risks for 2018 include climate change threats such as extreme temperatures and bad weather, as well as economic inequality and cyber attacks. And two of the most prominent risks for American businesses, specifically, will be inadequate protections against cyberattacks and the potential environmental disasters stemming from climate change.

"Cyber is at or above the scale of natural catastrophes [in terms of financial damage caused] and yet the comparative infrastructure is much smaller in scale".

"The expanding economic recovery gives us an opportunity that we cannot afford to waste", said Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum.

"Together we have the resources and the new scientific and technological knowledge to prevent this".

The risk of political and economic confrontations between major powers including outright military conflicts has also risen sharply according to the survey released by the World Economic Forum days before its annual gathering in Davos Switzerlan

"Above all, the challenge is to find the will and momentum to work together for a shared future", Founder and Executive Chairman, WEF, Professor Klaus Schwab said.

"At the same time as this increasing suite of attackers, you have cyber exposure growing for companies".

Aside from suffering disruptions, organisations have also suffered huge losses as a result of persistent cyber attacks.

The risk of extreme weather ending human existence is topped only by the risk posed weapons of mass destruction.

"Environmental risks, together with a growing vulnerability to other risks, are now seriously threatening the foundation of most of our commons", says Alison Martin, Group Chief Risk Officer at Zurich Insurance Group and member of the steering board of the Global Risks Report.

"Unfortunately we now observe a "too-little-too-late" response by governments and organisations to key trends such as climate change", said Ms Martin.

The annual report, released ahead of the annual WEF meeting in Davos, Switzerland next week, shows cyber security risks are also growing, both in prevalence and disruptive potential.

For example, while many businesses were able to open immediately after the hurricanes and wildfires previous year, their customers often were displaced, which led to a loss of business income that was not covered by traditional business interruption insurance because there was no damage to the policyholders' properties, he said. The cost of cyber-crime to firms over the next five years could reach $8 trillion, the WEF said.

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