Weather and climate top World Economic Forum’s list of top-10 most likely risk concerns

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“The world is facing a growing number of complex and interconnected challenges – from slowing global growth and persistent economic inequality to climate change, geopolitical tensions and the accelerating pace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” says Børge Brende, president, World Economic Forum, in the 2019 edition of the forum’s Global Risks Report. “In isolation, these are daunting challenges, faced simultaneously, we will struggle if we do not work together. There has never been a more pressing need for a collaborative and multi-stakeholder approach to shared global problems.”

The opening pages of the report lists the top-10 risks in order of the likelihood of their occurring, some of which are the subject of daily headlines and others less so, although still significant. While it doesn’t appear on the top-10 likeliest risks, “weapons of mass destruction” tops the list of concerns that would have the greatest impact. Significantly, climate change and the risk of severe weather is at or near the top of both lists. The most-often cited cause of these likely events is man-made and yet many leaders are downplaying or denying both the likelihood and the impact as they struggle to “regain control” of their nation states.

The report’s executive summary outlines the challenge this way: “Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking…. We are drifting deeper into global problems from which we will struggle to extricate ourselves.”

Likelihood Top-10

  1. Extreme weather events
  2. Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation
  3. Natural disasters
  4. Data fraud or theft
  5. Cyber-attacks
  6. Man-made environmental disasters
  7. Large-scale involuntary migration
  8. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
  9. Water crises
  10. Asset bubbles in a major economy

Impact Top-10

  1. Weapons of mass destruction
  2. Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation
  3. Extreme weather events
  4. Water crises
  5. Natural disasters
  6. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
  7. Cyber-attacks
  8. Critical information infrastructure breakdown
  9. Man-made environmental disasters
  10. Spread of infectious diseases

Carmen Rossiter photoCarmen Rossiter, director of the Schulich Executive Education Centre’s Masters Certificate in Risk Management and Business Performance Leadership along with her colleague Michael Stramaglia, says environmental challenges are among the most difficult to prepare for. “Organizations can attempt to decrease the likelihood through various control measures but for some of these risks (especially environmental), the occurrence is inevitable, so all that can be done is to prepare for the event when it occurs to diminish its impact.”

Rossiter also notes a change in the top concerns over the past 10 years. “We used to be most concerned with economic risks – mainly after the last economic downturn. Now this has shifted to environmental risks and we are also seeing the recent appearance of technology risks (cyber and data fraud/theft).”

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The Schulich Executive Education Centre offers a 13-day program, the Masters Certificate in Risk Management and Business Performance Leadership (starting April 29, 2019), to teach business leaders how to assess the risks that could impact their organization and devise plans for mitigating them while still achieving organizational goals. To learn more about the course visit the program website.

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