Water security outranked only by nuclear threat in global crisis standings

Posted 14 February 2017
Extreme weather events and water security are among the greatest global threats to business and society – surpassed only by concerns about weapons of mass destruction – according to the latest World Economic Forum survey. 

Rounding out the top five concerns in the WEF Global Risks Report 2017 were more water-related issues: major natural disasters, and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation. 

“And for the first time, all five environmental risks in the survey were ranked both high-risk and high-likelihood, with extreme weather events emerging as the single most prominent global risk,” the WEF stated

In the official report it was noted: “The confluence of risks around water scarcity, climate change, extreme weather events and involuntary migration remains a potent cocktail and a 'risk multiplier', especially in the world economy’s more fragile environmental and political contexts.”

It's the 12th annual survey asking nearly 750 experts – including leaders in politics, business and civic life – about 30 of the world’s most critical risks and 13 trends. 

WEF Head of Competitiveness and Risk Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz said that top concerns in the report's early years, which were oil shocks and volatile asset prices, had been overtaken by water security and extreme weather.

“Economic risks have been overtaken by the need for action on the environmental side,” Drzeniek Hanouz said.

The report acknowledged progress on climate change in 2016, pointing to the fact the US, Australia, China and others had ratified the Paris Agreement. 

“The rise of multidimensional cooperation to manage our global environmental commons will be challenging in the international context, but essential if we are to respond adequately to the structural risks posed by climate change, extreme weather and water crises,” the report stated.