COVID Impairs Action on Top Global Risks

Morgan O'Rourke


March 1, 2021

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2021 cited infectious diseases as the top risk of the year in terms of impact. Further, the WEF warned that the economic fragility, large-scale job losses, social unrest, geopolitical tensions and digital disparities resulting from or exacerbated by the pandemic could have serious ramifications on the world’s ability to address the other top threats of the next decade, such as climate change, cyberattacks and weapons of mass destruction.

Respondents also ranked risks according to when they would pose a critical threat to the world. The top short-term “clear and present dangers” (zero to two years) were infectious diseases, livelihood crises and extreme weather events. Medium-term “knock-on effects” (three to five years) included asset bubble burst, IT infrastructure breakdown and price instability, while the top long-term “existential threats” (five to 10 years) were weapons of mass destruction, state collapse and biodiversity loss.

Morgan O’Rourke is editor in chief of Risk Management and director of publications for the Risk & Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS)