These are the world’s greatest risks

PUBLISHED: Wed, 15 Jan 2020 18:22:57 GMT


By Chris Bishop

Next week world leaders will meet at one of the coldest spots on earth to discuss this divided planet’s burning issues that threaten its very survival.

For years, the World’s Davos gathering has been around issues of globalisation, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and artificial intelligence. It is 50 years since the free market optimist Klaus Schwab launched the gathering, in the Swiss ski village, aimed at bringing the world’s economies closers.

The wags used to paint it as the great, good and the powerful linking arms to sing: ‘We are the World.’ This year, the song of Davos could be closer to a Bob Marley’s So Much Trouble in the World on the aptly named album Survival.

As raging fires lay waste vast tracts of Australia – the word is they won’t be doused until March – the World Economic Forum says the greatest risk, in its 10 year outlook, is extreme weather destroying property and taking life, followed closely by the failure to tackle climate change. Both lurk beneath the glow of Australia’s ruinous bush fires.   

The other greatest risks, according to 750 global experts polled by WEF, are: environmental crime and mistakes, like radiation leaks and oil spills; followed closely by the destruction of natural resources, tsunamis earthquakes and geomagnetic storms.

“The political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks,” said Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.

This is the second year running that that climate and environment concerns top the list; one reason why issues like climate change are shooting up news agenda in newsrooms around the world and causing companies worldwide to rethink their investments.

Aside from the fury of the elements, 2020 threatens to be a dangerous and depressed year all round.

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“The report forecasts a year of increased domestic and international divisions and economic slowdown. Geopolitical turbulence is propelling us towards an “unsettled” unilateral world of great power rivalries at a time when business and government leaders must focus urgently on working together to tackle shared risks’,” says the report.

The leaders of the South African delegation to Davos meet at a plush hotel in Rosebank, Johannesburg, to set out their stall for yet another pitch to the world for investors as the economy stalls with growth expected to be less than one per cent this year.

As usual, the South Africans will be looking largely for investors in heavy industry, tech and mining. Maybe the country – on of the biggest polluters in Africa – should be looking to attract investment into renewable energy to help avert climate change before the elements eat it for breakfast.