current affairs design development economics

A landscape of global risk

This morning I’ve been browsing some of the outputs from the World Economic Forum, and among the reports is one on global risks. It attempts to map the risks facing us in the next decade, and draw the connections between them. You can explore it online here in more detail, or here’s a rough overview.

The graph below shows various risks as perceived by the Forum, mapped left to right by likelihood, and up and down according the impact (economic, obviously).

We might want to argue over what’s missing (resource depletion, HIV/AIDS perhaps), or the placing of some of these – I’d suggest regulatory failure and energy price volatility are both more likely than they are here, that biodiversity loss could be more expensive. Overall though, it’s not a bad attempt, and it’s a useful reminder that we ought to be prioritising the highly likely, high impact events as much as possible.

What I find interesting is that this is drawn up by economists and measures economic impact, and it still suggests we ought to be addressing climate change and economic disparity. So come on Davos, instead of banging on about growth and trade again next year, how about you let your own risk analysis inform next year’s agenda?

(I compiled this from screenshots and realised I missed one along the way – if you’re wondering what the untagged risk is at the bottom left, it’s ‘space security’)


  1. What is meant by space security? Vehicles colliding with debris? Exploding vehicles with plutonium batteries? Solar storms? Asteroid or comet impacts?

    The Risk, I think, is clear. I have a long report from the Munich Re (re-insurance company) on global risks, and it is very similar. That is not new. But – the members of the growth religion believe that growth is the only way to address these issues, and some do not care – after all for those who push the right buttons and pull the right strings, risk and disaster can also be opportunities for enormous profit. Peak Oil, for example, will make the oil companies richer and more powerful than ever before. Just like the financial crisis left the biggest banks in that very same state. Bigger than ever.

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