The ongoing climate crisis and social inequality are the top global risks for this year, a new report has revealed.
According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest global risks report, climate risks dominate the short-term concerns, as the world enters the third year of the pandemic, and also remains the biggest long-term threat facing humanity.
This includes climate action failure, extreme weather risks, biodiversity loss, natural resource crises, and human environmental damage.
The report, which is in its 17th year, is published in partnership with Marsh McLennan, Zurich Insurance Group (ZURN.SW) and SK Group, and ranks the biggest risks facing the world as judged by global risk experts and decision makers.
In a media briefing in Switzerland on Tuesday, risk experts warned that failure to act on climate change could shrink global GDP by one-sixth, adding that the commitments taken at COP26 in November are still not enough to achieve the 1.5C goal.
COVID-19 and its economic and societal consequences also continue to pose a critical threat to the world. Vaccine inequality and an uneven economic recovery risk compounding social fractures and geopolitical tensions, the report said.
In the poorest 52 countries, home to 20% of the world’s population, only 6% had been vaccinated at the time of publication. By 2024, developing economies (excluding China) will have fallen 5.5% below their pre-pandemic expected GDP growth, while advanced economies will have surpassed it by 0.9%, widening the global income gap.
Saadia Zahidi, managing director at the WEF, said: “Health and economic disruptions are compounding social cleavages. This is creating tensions at a time when collaboration within societies and among the international community will be fundamental to ensure a more even and rapid global recovery.
“Global leaders must come together and adopt a coordinated multi-stakeholder approach to tackle unrelenting global challenges and build resilience ahead of the next crisis.”
The report further revealed the top short-term global concerns include heightened cyber threats, which are now growing faster than the ability to eradicate them permanently, societal divides, livelihood crises, and mental health deterioration.
A growing dependency on digital systems, intensified by the pandemic, has also altered societies.
“Over the last 18 months, industries have undergone rapid digitalisation, workers have shifted to remote working where possible, and platforms and devices facilitating this change have proliferated,” the WEF said.
"At the same time, cybersecurity threats are growing. In 2020 alone, malware and ransomware attacks increased by 358% and 435% respectively."
Other challenges the data highlighted were higher barriers to international mobility and crowding and competition in space.
Most experts said they believe a global economic recovery will be volatile and uneven over the next three years, with just one in 10 believing the global recovery will accelerate.
The global risks report 2022 comes ahead of the Davos Agenda this month, which will mobilise heads of state and government, business leaders, international organisations and civil society to share their outlook, insights and plans relating to the most urgent global issues.
The meeting will provide a platform for connection, enabling the public to watch and interact through live streamed sessions, social media polling and virtual connections.