Environmental risks dominate WEF ranking of long-term threats

11th January 2024


The top four most severe risks facing the planet over the next 10 years are all related to the environment, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Its Global Risks Report 2024, which draws on the views of over 1,400 risk experts, lists extreme weather events, critical change to Earth systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, and natural resource shortages as the top threats over the next decade.

Extreme weather events are also ranked second among the most severe short-term risks facing the world over the next two years, with two-thirds of experts worried about these in 2024.

However, there is disagreement on the urgency of these risks, with private sector experts believing that most environmental threats will materialise over a longer timeframe than civil society or governments do.

The report suggests that this points to a growing risk of getting “past a point of no return”, and recommends focusing global cooperation on rapidly building guardrails for the most disruptive risks.

"World leaders must come together to address short-term crises as well as lay the groundwork for a more resilient, sustainable, inclusive future,” said Saadia Zahidi, WEF’s managing director.

“An unstable global order characterised by polarising narratives and insecurity, the worsening impacts of extreme weather, and economic uncertainty are causing accelerating risks – including misinformation and disinformation – to propagate.”

Indeed, misinformation and disinformation is ranked as the top short-term risk in the report, and fifth among the long-term threats. This is shown below:

Source: WEF

Two-thirds of global experts anticipate a multipolar or fragmented order to take shape over the next decade, in which middle and great powers contest and set – but also enforce – new rules and norms.

Furthermore, the report suggests that artificial intelligence (AI)-driven misinformation and societal unrest will take centre stage amid elections in several major economies over the next two years.

“AI breakthroughs will radically disrupt the risk outlook for organisations, with many struggling to react to threats arising from misinformation, disintermediation and strategic miscalculation," commented Carolina Klint, chief commercial officer for Europe at insurer Marsh McLennan.

“At the same time, companies are having to negotiate supply chains made more complex by geopolitics and climate change and cyber threats from a growing number of malicious actors.

“It will take a relentless focus to build resilience at organisational, country and international levels – and greater cooperation between the public and private sectors – to navigate this rapidly evolving risk landscape.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

A social conscience

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

What is the role for nature in the Climate Change Act? Sophie Mairesse reports

20th May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close