Are These The World’s Biggest Challenges?

Watch any news channel and you cannot be blamed for thinking that Ben Affleck’s “Armamgeddon” is nigh or that six years later, Will Smith’s “2012” is about to occur.

On many platforms, the outlook of the world is so glooomy that one is led to think that human beings are inherently bad and this evil is going to destroy the planet. Some even go to the extent of accusing Elon Musk and all contemporaries who are on the race to Mars, that they want to extend extend human evil across the universe.

The question is, is the world getting better or is it getting worse? Are we better off than our Stone Age ancestors?

One way to answer these questions is to look at the world challenges and determine whether they are getting worse or not.

According to the World Economic Forum, a “global risk” is defined as an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, can cause significant negative impact for several countries or industries within the next 10 years. For the pourpose of this post, we will stick to this definition.


Economic Risks


Asset bubbles in a major economy

Unsustainably overpriced assets such as commodities, housing, shares, etc. in a major economy or region

Deflation in a major economy

Prolonged near-zero inflation or deflation in a major economy or region

Failure of a major financial mechanism or institution

Collapse of a financial institution and/or malfunctioning of a financial system that impacts the global economy

Failure/shortfall of criticalinfrastructure

Failure to adequately invest in, upgrade and/or secure infrastructure networks (e.g. energy, transportation and communications), leading to pressure or a breakdown with system-wide implications.

Fiscal crises in key economies

Excessive debt burdens that generate sovereign debt crises and/or liquidity crises

High structural unemployment or underemployment

A sustained high level of unemployment or underutilization of the productive capacity of the employed population

Illicit trade (e.g. illicit financial flows, tax evasion, human trafficking, organized crime, etc.)

Large-scale activities outside the legal framework such as illicit financial flows, tax evasion, human trafficking, counterfeiting and/or organized crime that undermine social interactions, regional or international collaboration, and global growth

Severe energy price shock(increase or decrease)

Significant energy price increases or decreases that place further economic pressures on highly energy-dependent industries and consumers

Unmanageable inflation

Unmanageable increases in the general price levels of goods and services in key economies



Environmental Risks


Extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms, etc.)

Major property, infrastructure and/or environmental damage as well as loss of human life caused by extreme weather events

Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation

The failure of governments and businesses to enforce or enact effective measures to mitigate climate change, protect populations and help businesses impacted by climate change to adapt

Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse (terrestrial or marine)

Irreversible consequences for the environment, resulting in severely depleted resources for humankind as well as industries

Major natural disasters (e.g. earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption, geomagnetic storms)

Major property, infrastructure and/or environmental damage as well as loss of human life caused by geophysical disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic activity, landslides, tsunamis, or geomagnetic storms

Man-made environmentaldamage and disasters (e.g. oil spills, radioactive contamination, etc.)

Failure to prevent major man-made damage and disasters, including environmental crime, causing harm to human lives and health, infrastructure, property, economic activity and the environment.



Geopolitical Risks



Failure of national governance (e.g. failure of rule of law, corruption, political deadlock, etc.)

Inability to govern a nation of geopolitical importance as a result of weak rule of law, corruption or political deadlock.

Failure of regional or global governance

Inability of regional or global institutions to resolve issues of economic, geopolitical or environmental importance

Interstate conflict with regional consequences

A bilateral or multilateral dispute between states that escalates into economic (e.g. trade/currency wars, resource nationalization), military, cyber, societal or other conflict.

Large-scale terrorist attacks

Individuals or non-state groups with political or religious goals that successfully inflict large-scale human or material damage.

State collapse or crisis (e.g. civil conflict, military coup, failed states, etc.)

State collapse of geopolitical importance due to internal violence, regional or global instability, military coup, civil conflict, failed states, etc.

Weapons of mass destruction

The deployment of nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological technologies and materials, creating international crises and potential for significant destruction



Societal Risks



Failure of urban planning

Poorly planned cities, urban sprawl and associated infrastructure that create social, environmental and health challenges

Food crises

Inadequate, unaffordable, or unreliable access to appropriate quantities and quality of food and nutrition on a major scale

Large-scale involuntary migration

Large-scale involuntary migration induced by conflict, disasters, environmental or economic reasons

Profound social instability

Major social movements or protests (e.g. street riots, social unrest, etc.) that disrupt political or social stability, negatively impacting populations and economic activity.

Rapid and massive spread of infectious diseases

Bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi that cause uncontrolled spread of infectious diseases (for instance as a result of resistance to antibiotics, antivirals and other treatments) leading to widespread fatalities and economic disruption.

Water crises

A significant decline in the available quality and quantity of fresh water, resulting in harmful effects on human health and/or economic activity.

Technological Risks


Adverse consequences of technological advances

Intended or unintended adverse consequences of technological advances such as artificial intelligence, geo-engineering and synthetic biology causing human, environmental and economic damage

Breakdown of critical information infrastructure and networks (Critical information infrastructure breakdown)

Cyber dependency that increases vulnerability to outage of critical information infrastructure (e.g. internet, satellites, etc.) and networks, causing widespread disruption

Large-scale cyberattacks

Large-scale cyberattacks or malware causing large economic damages, geopolitical tensions or widespread loss of trust in the internet

Massive incident of data fraud/theft

Wrongful exploitation of private or official data that takes place on an unprecedented scale


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Written by mathsgee


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