Brought to you by:

Contagious diseases, climate change 'key global risks': WEF report

Infectious diseases and a number of climate change-linked threats have dominated a risk survey as part of an annual World Economic Forum (WEF) report produced in collaboration with Zurich Insurance Group and Marsh.

About 58% see infectious diseases as a short-term critical risk that posed “clear and present dangers” to the global economy in the next two years and 52.7% put extreme weather events in the same category.

When assessed according to likelihood of a risk occurring over the next 10 years, extreme weather placed first, followed by climate action failure and human environmental damage. Infectious diseases and biodiversity loss ranked fourth and fifth respectively.

In terms of impact, infectious diseases came first followed by climate action failure. Weapons of mass destruction placed third while biodiversity loss, natural resource crises and human environmental damage took the next three spots. Extreme weather events ranked eighth in this category.

“The biggest long-term risk remains a failure to act on climate change,” Zurich Group Chief Risk Officer Peter Giger said. “There is no vaccine against climate risks, so post-pandemic recovery plans must focus on growth aligning with sustainability agendas to build back better.”

Marsh says the fallout from COVID-19 will profoundly impact the way organisations interact with clients and colleagues long after any vaccine rollout.

“As businesses transform their workplaces, new vulnerabilities are emerging,” Continental Europe Risk Management Leader Carolina Klint said. “Rapid digitalisation is exponentially increasing cyber exposures, supply chain disruption is radically altering business models, and a rise in serious health issues has accompanied employees’ shift to remote working.

“Every business will need to strengthen and constantly review their risk mitigation strategies if they are to improve their resilience to future shocks.”

The Global Risks Perception Survey is based on 841 responses from participants comprising business, government civil society and thought leaders. They were asked to grade the level of threat posed by a list of 35 risks over the next 10 years.

The findings were contained in the WEF’s annual Global Risks Report released overnight in Geneva.

The report says the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has “highlighted the need for greater coordination on financing to improve resilience and expedite recovery, from pre-emptive investment and contingency budgets to insurance pools with government backstops”.

“The lesson for crisis management is that details matter and need to be addressed collaboratively,” the report said.

On climate change, WEF says man-made carbon emissions continue to be a “catastrophic risk” as global co-operation to arrest global warming stalls.

“Climate change, to which no one is immune, nor can the world vaccinate against it, continues to be catastrophic,” the WEF report says.

Click here for the report.