Water crises rated high risk

2nd February 2015

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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Adaptation


Stuart Turner

Water crises and failure to adapt to climate change rank as two of the top five global risks, according to experts polled by the World Economic Forum (WEF) for its annual meeting in Davos.

WEF asked nearly 900 experts, including academics, risk analysts and business people, to rank the top five global risks in terms of likelihood and potential impact over the next 10 years. Water was ranked as the issue to have the biggest impact, ahead of the rapid spread of infectious disease, weapons of mass destruction and interstate conflict. Failure to progress climate change adaptation was fifth.

More environmental risks featured at the top of the list than economic ones, WEF analysts noted. This is due to a marked increase in experts' negative views of how well society is adapted to cope with challenges, such as extreme weather and climate change, rather than a reduction of fears over economic risks, they believe. Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse were assessed as high impact by respondents, but below average in terms of likelihood, WEF said.

In a separate survey, WEF asked business leaders what risks were most significant to them in terms of doing business in their particular country. UK respondents ranked economic risks, such as failure of financial mechanisms or institutions and global oil price shocks, as more significant than environmental ones, including water, which came 12th. Failure to effectively address climate change adaptation was ranked 15th.

The survey findings came as charity Business in the Community called on businesses to take action on water. Its water taskforce, which is chaired by Steve Mogford, chief exectuvie at United Utilities, has launched a three-year action programme to encourage business to safeguard water supplies and improve their resilience to flooding and water shortages.


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