Environmental risks dominate growing global concerns

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A deteriorating geopolitical landscape is partly to blame for the pessimistic outlook in 2018, with 93 per cent of respondents saying they expect 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.

But the rising concern over environmental dangers is a double-edged sword.

Leaders and experts across the globe believe extreme weather events and natural disasters pose the likeliest threats to the world, according to a new report, and the likelihood of their occurrence makes them even more concerning than weapons of mass destruction.

The report notes that a global economic rebound can help solve some problems, but it also pointed to increasingly complex challenges.

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

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

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WEF founder Klaus Schwab, in the report's preface, didn't address this criticism head-on, but said the forum aims to support change for the better of humanity by encouraging cooperation between governments and the private and charitable sectors. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused widespread destruction across the United States and Caribbean, while huge floods devastated large parts of India and Africa. "The aggregate cost of cyberattacks is now estimated at more than US$1tn per year versus roughly US$300bn experienced in 2017 from losses to natural catastrophes, and that was a record year".

Last year's theme - "creative a shared future in a fractured world" - reflected the problems facing the world, namely what he saw as "the problems of the global growth of populism and nationalism, racism and religionism that is quite striking right now", Shiller said.

Economic threats feature less prominently after the International Monetary Fund raised its global GDP projections to 3.6% for this year, with WEF founder, Klaus Schwab, saying this presents an opportunity to strengthen the world's institutions.

"We must take seriously the risk of a global systems breakdown".

Today's report underscores the extent to which environmental risks have shot up the mainstream agenda in the last decade. "AI is also linked to the spread of misinformation through social networks, which remains highly relevant for 2018 as "fake news" has now acquired global prominence", he observed from the global risks report. It was the number one risk across the business leadership that responded to our executive survey in advanced economies.

Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, head of the forum's Economic Progress Initiatives, said at the press conference 59% of survey respondents said they thought risks in general will increase in 2018. "It's not yet too late to build a more resilient tomorrow, but we need to act with a stronger sense of urgency in order to avoid potential system collapse".

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