For the first time – but not the last – climate change has made it to the top of the list for the World Economic Forum (WEF), in advance of this week’s meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
Each year, they conduct a survey on what experts perceive as the greatest potential threat to the world economy in terms of impact and likelihood – The Global Risks Report.
This year’s theme is: More Walls, More Warming, Less Water: A World at Risk in 2016
After being among the top five most impactful risks for the past three years, failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change rose to the top. While climate-induced natural disasters are perceived as the greatest risk over the short-term, long-term, water risks are #1.
Climate change will have the greatest impact but involuntary migration is the top risk in terms of likelhood this year, but that too is linked to climate change, as are water risks, says WEF. While the focus is on the mass migration to Europe, 59 million people have been displaced this year from natural disasters, they say.
And connections between the top risks are becoming stronger, amplifying the impacts of each.
Top 5 Global Risks in Terms of Impact
1. Failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change
2. Weapons of mass destruction
3. Water crises
4. Mass involuntary migration
5. Severe energy price shocks
Top 5 Global Risks in Terms of Likelihood
1. Large-scale involuntary migration
2. Extreme weather events
3. Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
4. Interstate conflict with regional consequences
5. Major natural catastrophes
"Climate change is exacerbating more risks than ever before in terms of water crises, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker societal cohesion and increased security risks,"explains Cecilia Reyes, chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group, which helped prepare the report.
"Meanwhile…political conflicts are in turn making the challenge of climate change all the more insurmountable -reducing the potential for political cooperation, as well as diverting resource, innovation and time away from climate change resilience and prevention," she adds.
WEF says: Such a broad risk landscape is unprecedented in the 11 years the report has been measuring global risks. For the first time, four out of five categories – environmental, geopolitical, societal and economic – feature among the top five most impactful risks. The only category not to feature is technological risk, where the highest ranking risk is cyberattack, in 11th position in both likelihood and impact."
In 2013, the report warned the world is headed for a perfect storm over the next decade because of a combination of steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions, persistent economic weakness and staggering debt, and severe income disparity.
Read Global Risks 2016: