The BCI

A world at risk in 2016

News   •   Jan 19, 2016 11:40 GMT

An increased likelihood for all risks, from the environmental to society, the economy, geopolitics and technology, looks set to shape the global agenda in the coming year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2016 has found.

In this year’s annual survey, almost 750 experts assessed 29 separate global risks for both impact and likelihood over a 10-year time horizon. The risk with the greatest potential impact in 2016 was found to be a failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is the first time since the report was published in 2006 that an environmental risk has topped the ranking. This year, it was considered to have greater potential damage than weapons of mass destruction (2nd), water crises (3rd), large-scale involuntary migration (4th) and severe energy price shock (5th).

The number one risk in 2016 in terms of likelihood, meanwhile, is large-scale involuntary migration, followed by extreme weather events (2nd), failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation (3rd), interstate conflict with regional consequences (4th) and major natural catastrophes (5th).

Geopolitical instability is exposing businesses to cancelled projects, revoked licenses, interrupted production, damaged assets and restricted movement of funds across borders. These political conflicts are in turn making the challenge of climate change all the more insurmountable – reducing the potential for political co-operation, as well as diverting resource, innovation and time away from climate change resilience and prevention,” said Cecilia Reyes, Chief Risk Officer of Zurich Insurance Group.

One potential black swan event could be in the area of technological risk. While cyberattacks rises slightly in terms of likelihood and impact in 2016, others, including failure of critical information infrastructure, appear to be declining as a risk in the eyes of experts. Technological crises have yet to impact economies or securities in a systemic way, but the risk still remains high, something that potentially may not have been fully priced in by experts.

Unemployment and under-employment appears as the risk of highest concern for doing business in more than a quarter of the 140 economies covered, and is especially featured as the top risk in two regions, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. The only region where it does not feature in the top five is North America. Energy price shock is the next most widespread risk, featuring in the top five risks for doing business in 93 economies. Cyberattacks, mentioned above, feature among the top five risks in 27 economies, indicating the extent to which businesses in many countries have been impacted already by this rising threat.