Global Risks 2013 – Global governance failure, pandemics and discovery of alien life

Global Risks 2013 – Global governance failure, pandemics and discovery of alien life

global riskThe World Economic Forum is an independent international organization that claims it is committed to improving the state of the world. As an effort to succeed in its mission, the WEF publishes regularly a series of reports concerning global issues. In the beginning of January 2013 the World Economic Forum published a report entitled Global Risks 2013. This is the eight edition of an annual study designed to identify the global risks as they are perceived by experts from around the world while also raising awareness regarding this matter.

The 2013 report is based on a survey conducted in September 2012 with over 1 000 respondents that looks at the likelihood and impact of global risks. What is interesting is the fact that it provides a wide perspective, discussing about present risks in comparison with past trends, interconnectedness of the risks identified as well as potential future risks.

Why is the Global Risks a must read? First of all it is an easy lecture, full of anecdotes and appealing charts and tables that provide an easy understanding of the matter. Secondly, the subject treated is of highly importance for one who wants to comprehend the full extent of the new world challenges, the way they affect us now and might affect us on the long term. In the ending of each section there are also a few recommendations on how to manage these risks in order to improve the chance of dealing with the complex world that we live in.

The report is divided in three main sections: one concerning “Testing Economic and Environmental Resilience”, one looking at the risk of cyber attacks and the issues associated with the hyper connectivity of the digital world and last section has to do with “the dangers of hubris on human health”. There is also a subsection dealing with the so called “X factor”, defined as “emerging concerns of possible future importance and with unknown consequences” which includes issues such as the costs associated with medicine advances that lead to prolonged life, rogue deployment of geo-engineering and climate manipulation as well as a controversial topic about the discovery of alien life. Although they might sound quite like matters from a science fiction novel, we have to keep in mind that the risks that we deal with today might have sound as bizarre 50 years ago.

So what are the main conclusions that can be drawn from the Global Risks 2013 Report? First of all, at the center of the Global Risks Map 2013 it is placed Global Governance failure. The respondents perceived the global institutions as weak and in competition with national and political interests, being thus inefficient in addressing global risks.

Another essential topic is the cost of natural disasters. As some recent projections predict an increase of up to 4 degrees Celsius as early as the 2060, there are negative impacts that we have to meditate upon; impacts such as extreme weather, displacement of population and economic losses that become more and more worrying. Sadly there is little incentive for decision makers to invest in climate change, as most of them perceive it as a somewhat exaggerated matter with consequences in the distant future; after all their focus is on the short terms in which they operate (from 2 years up to 10 years) and they are reluctant to promote unpopular measures in the name of global warming. Either way, even in the present we can see how the climate change has an impact on our lives. Let’s take for example Hurricane Sandy that hit New York in 2012 with an estimated cost over US$ 70 billion.

Other noteworthy risks, that need to gain more awareness, are the ones related to human health, mainly the rising rates of chronic disease and the unforeseen consequences of new life science technology. The spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well as the growing overuse of antibiotics (which make the human body more resilient) lead to a vicious circle. It is not impossible to imagine a scenario where the modern medicine as we know it becomes to some extent obsolete and we might found ourselves in the ages where one could die from something as simple as a cold.

 Besides these main ideas there are many other interesting subjects treated in the report so I warmly advise the reader to discover them on his own. The Report can be downloaded for free from: http://www.weforum.org/reports .

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