Health, hubris and humbug: Global Risks 2013 Report

Gosh I am glad not to be high on a hill, even if lonely goat herds have been wiped off the face of the earth as a result of short-term thinking on behalf of personkind.  I’m assuming mountain-loving goats can get a bit aggressive from time to time.

Simply put, I’d much rather stand on the coast waiting for the seas to rise and enjoy the very steady weather pattern up here – 28 to 30 degrees max every day.  (Memo to Fairfax journalists: not particularly hot up here.)

But I had promised to outline the World Economic Forum Global Risks 2013 Report.  This is part of the series that failed to predict the GFC, but what the heck.

So here are some of the pearls of wisdom – and to think I will be missing the in-depth discussion.  (Note also that 2012 was not a year in which there were many natural disasters, Sandy notwithstanding, with total insurance claims about half of the previous year.  But who cares about facts when a good scare is so much more compelling?)

Watch out for those DIGITAL WILDFIRES everyone, by the way.  And no more HUBRIS, please.

World More at Risk from Markets and Mother Nature – Global Risks 2013 Report

  • Persistent economic malaise coupled with frequent extreme weather events an increasingly dangerous mix
  • National resilience is crucial to tackle unpredictable global threats; new country rating system launched
  • Health and hubris, digital wildfires and environmental/economic stress are the three risk cases for 2013
  • The report analyses 50 global risks, with breakdowns for China, Middle East/North Africa and Latin America
  • Read the Global Risks 2013 report in full:

London, United Kingdom, 8 January 2013 – The world is more at risk as persistent economic weakness saps our ability to tackle environmental challenges, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 report.

The report highlights wealth gaps (severe income disparity) followed by unsustainable government debt (chronic fiscal imbalances) as the top two most prevalent risks, in a survey of over 1,000 experts and industry leaders, which reflects a slightly more pessimistic outlook overall for the coming 10 years.

Following a year scarred by extreme weather, from Hurricane Sandy to flooding in China, respondents rated rising greenhouse gas emissions as the third most likely global risk overall, while the failure of climate change adaptation is seen as the environmental risk with the most knock-on effects for the next decade.

“These global risks are essentially a health warning regarding our most critical systems,” warned Lee Howell, the editor of the report and Managing Director at the World Economic Forum. “National resilience to global risks needs to be a priority so that critical systems continue to function despite a major disturbance,” he added.

Axel P. Lehmann, Chief Risk Officer at Zurich Insurance Group, said: “With the growing cost of events like Superstorm Sandy, huge threats to island nations and coastal communities, and no resolution to greenhouse gas emissions, the writing is on the wall. It is time to act.”

Global Risks 2013 analyses three major risk cases of concern globally:

1. Health and Hubris
Huge strides forward in health have left the world dangerously complacent. Rising resistance to antibiotics could push overburdened health systems to the brink, while a hyperconnected world allows pandemics to spread. This risk case draws on the connections between antibiotic resistance, chronic disease and the failure of the international intellectual property regime, recommending more international collaboration and different funding models.

2. Economy and Environment under Stress
Urgent socioeconomic risks are derailing efforts to tackle climate change challenges. Inherent cognitive biases make the international community reluctant to deal with such a long-term threat, despite recent extreme weather events. At a time when structural changes are happening in the economy and environment, this case focuses on new approaches to make the strategic investments needed to fend off worst-case scenarios for both systems.

John Drzik, Chief Executive Officer of Oliver Wyman Group, a part of Marsh & McLennan Companies, said: “Two storms – environmental and economic – are on a collision course. If we don’t allocate the resources needed to mitigate the rising risk from severe weather events, global prosperity for future generations could be threatened. Political leaders, business leaders and scientists need to come together to manage these complex risks.”

David Cole, Group Chief Risk Officer of Swiss Re, said: “Coping with the economic and climate-change crises is unfortunately no longer seen as a continuum, but as opposing choices. The idea has gained ground that we can’t have solutions to both. But we need to go beyond this thinking-in-boxes approach. So because smart risk management is about taking a holistic stance on situations, we should do the same when it comes to the economic and climate-change challenges we’re facing.”

3. Digital Wildfires
From the printing press to the Internet, it has always been hard to predict how new technologies might shape society. While in many ways a force for good, the democratization of information can also have volatile and unpredictable consequences, as reflected in the riots provoked by an anti-Islam film on YouTube. As the media’s traditional role as gatekeeper is eroded, this case considers how connectivity enables “digital wildfires” to spread, and asks what can be done to put them out.

In a special report on national resilience, the groundwork is laid for a new country resilience rating, which would allow leaders to benchmark their progress. It is based on the notion that no nation alone can prevent exogenous, global risks occurring, which makes national resilience a crucial first line of defence.

The report as a whole describes 50 global risks and groups them into economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological categories, which respondents were asked to rate in terms of likelihood and impact. The data shows that younger respondents were more concerned by risks than older ones, while women were more pessimistic than men. On a regional basis, experts in North America tended to see risks as more likely than those in other regions.

 The report also highlights “X Factors” – emerging concerns which warrant more research. These include the rogue deployment of geoengineering and brain-altering technologies.


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4 Responses to Health, hubris and humbug: Global Risks 2013 Report

  1. John Comnenus

    The greatest obvioius risk we face is the truly terrible range of people Western nations seem intent on electing to high office. A civilization run by morons, will eventually collapse under the weight of it’s own idiocy. We are well down is path. The greatest underlying risk we face is the persistent dominance of Left Wing ideas throughout the Western World.

  2. Bruce

    Lee Howell … Consultant to UN High Commissioner for Refugees

    Axel P. Lehmann, Chief Risk Officer at Zurich Insurance Group

    John Drzik, Chief Executive Officer of Oliver Wyman Group … consulting firm … specialized expertise in … risk management

    David Cole, Group Chief Risk Officer of Swiss Re

    In other WEF news vampires expect major labour shortage in blood banks around the world, offer selves as volunteer collectors.

  3. jasbo

    Inherent cognitive biases…

    Well, no surprise how the smart class has put behavioural economics to work. Anyone who disagrees with the conventional wisdom of our betters is merely expressing “cognitive bias”.
    Who could have seen that coming?

  4. juanluissegundo

    Gosh I am glad not to be high on a hill

    More accurately, you’re in an ivory tower, far removed from reality, but obviously all-knowing and all-seeing.
    Are you sure you’re not attempting some arcane form of stand-up comedy?

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