By Chris Bishop

Look left, look right, look upwards before you go out in 2019 because the biggest threat could come from the skies. We’re not talking about bombers, nor meteorites from outer space, merely the destructive wrath of mother nature.

This is the is one of the greatest long term threats to the world in 2019, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report  that paints a bleak picture of the year ahead full of trade wars, cyber-attacks and unemployment.

Four of the five top risks by impact are posed by the elements: failure to mitigate the effects of climate change; floods and storms; water crisis, plus earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos and electric storms.

“2018 was sadly a year of historic wildfires, continued heavy flooding and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. It is no surprise that in 2019, environmental risks once again dominate the list of major concerns. So, too, does the growing likelihood of environmental policy failure or a lack of timely policy implementation,” says Alison Martin, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance Group.

“By 2040, the investment gap in global infrastructure is forecast to reach $18 trillion against a projected requirement of $97 trillion. Against this backdrop, we strongly recommend that businesses develop a climate resilience adaptation strategy and act on it now.”

Gaps play a big part in the Global Risks Report. In the top five trends are: the growing gap between rich and poor; the polarisation of societies; along with climate change, the rise of nationalism and the risk of increasing cyber dependency.

On the economic front, one of the biggest risks of all likely to come in international trade; 90% of the experts, of the 1,000 polled by the report, believed there is likely to be confrontation over trade between the major powers in 2019.      

“Trade disputes worsened rapidly in 2018 and the report warns that growth in 2019 will be held back by continuing geo-economic tensions, with 88% of respondents expecting further erosion of multilateral trading rules and agreements,” says the report.

The danger of large scale cyber-attacks that could break down infrastructure and information systems along with major fraud attacks, was also flagged by the report.

 “Persistent underfunding of critical infrastructure worldwide is hampering economic progress, leaving businesses and communities more vulnerable both to cyberattacks and natural catastrophes, and failing to make the most of technological innovation. Allocating resources to infrastructure investment, in part through new incentives for public-private partnerships, is vital for building and strengthening the physical foundations and digital networks that will enable societies to grow and thrive, ” says John Drzik, President of Global Risk and Digital, Marsh.

 The report also delves into the biggest risks for Africa and other regions around the world: