Risks that were feared a year ago as potential knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have emerged since as “clear and present dangers,” according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022.
As the world’s economies face divergent experiences in their pandemic recoveries, the emergence of those threats is impeding efforts to address other risks, the World Economic Forum (WEF) report suggests.
“Supply chain disruptions, inflation, debt, labor market gaps, protectionism, and educational disparities are moving the world economy into choppy waters that both rapidly and slowly recovering countries alike will need to navigate to restore social cohesion, boost employment, and thrive,” the report says. “These difficulties are impeding the visibility of emerging challenges, which include climate transition disorder, increased cyber vulnerabilities, greater barriers to international mobility, and crowding and competition in space.”
Respondents to WEF’s Global Risk Perceptions Survey (GRPS) expect the next 3 years to be marked by continued volatility. Over the next 5 years, the group indicated they expect societal and environmental risks to be the greatest sources for concern.
Taking a 10-year view, however, the survey respondents come down heavily on environmental risks as the top concerns. They listed “climate action failure,” “extreme weather,” and “biodiversity loss” as the three most severe risks. The group also included “debt crises” and “geoeconomic confrontations” as among the most severe risks over the next 10 years.
While technological risks such as “digital inequality” and “cyber-security failure” were also cited among critical short- and medium-term threats, they tend to rank lower among respondents’ long-term concerns, a finding that the WEF report suggests signals “a possible blind spot in risk perceptions.”
The report notes that a growing dependency on digital systems—a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic—has altered societies. With that change come increased cyber threats, the report says. According to the WEF report, cyber-security failure is one of the threats that has increased the most during the pandemic.