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 LONDON: January 17, 2018. The latest Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) says extreme weather events are seen as the greatest risk to social and economic stability. 

The WEF asked experts to prioritize from a list of 30 global risks and they ranked highly all five environmental events – extreme weather; biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; major natural disasters; man-made environmental disasters; and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

"Environmental risks, together with a growing vulnerability to other risks, are now seriously threatening the foundation of most of our commons," said Zurich Insurance Group chief risk officer Alison Martin. "Unfortunately we currently observe a 'too-little-too-late' response by governments and organizations to key trends such as climate change. It's not yet too late to shape a more resilient tomorrow, but we need to act with a stronger sense of urgency in order to avoid potential system collapse."

WEF Global RisksThe survey asked nearly 1,000 respondents from the WEF's multi-stakeholder communities for their views about the trajectory of risks in 2018 and 59 percent suggested they are increasing while only seven percent said they weren't.

However 93 percent of respondents said they expect political or economic confrontations between major powers to worsen in 2018 and nearly 80 percent think there's an increase in the prospect of war.

Given the interconnectedness of global systems - evidenced by the logistics industry for example – the WEF thinks there's a growing risk of what it describes as "future shocks" and lists 10 scenarios that could happen as a result:

Grim reaping: Simultaneous breadbasket failures threaten sufficiency of global food supply
A tangled web: Artificial intelligence "weeds" proliferate, choking performance of the internet
The death of trade: Trade wars cascade and multilateral institutions are too weak to respond
Democracy buckles: New waves of populism threaten social order in one or more mature democracies
Precision extinction: AI-piloted drone ships take illegal fishing to new – and even more unsustainable – levels
Into the abyss: Another financial crisis overwhelms policy responses and triggers period of chaos
Inequality ingested: Bioengineering and cognition-enhancing drugs entrench gulf between haves and have-nots
War without rules: State-on-state conflict escalates unpredictably in the absence of agreed cyberwarfare rules
Identity geopolitics: Amid geopolitical flux, national identity becomes a growing source of tension around contested borders
Walled off: Cyberattacks, protectionism and regulatory divergence leads to balkanization of the Internet

The WEF 2018 Global Risks Report is produced in collaboration with Marsh & McLennan, the Zurich Insurance Group, Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, the National University of Singapore and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, University of Pennsylvania.

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