WEF Global Risks Report 2020: Climate action failure, biodiversity loss, extreme weather top global risks

WEF Global Risks Report 2020: The World Economic Forum released its 15th edition of the Global Risks Report on January 15, 2020.  The report highlights the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to mitigating risks, especially climate-related risks.

The Global Risks Report 2020 comes at a time when the global economy is facing a synchronized slowdown, cyber-attacks are on a rise and climate change is becoming an increasingly concerning phenomenon with the past five years being the warmest on record.

The report is based on WEF’s annual Global Risks Perception Survey, which comprises views of around 800 members of WEF’s diverse communities. For the first time, the report features the results from over 200 members of its Global Shapers Community—a generation of emerging global social entrepreneurs and leaders, which uses its digital savviness to spotlight issues that are potential existential risks not only to its generation but to the wider global community.

Top long-term global risks


Top 10 risks in terms of Likelihood

Top 10 risks in terms of Impact


Extreme Weather

Climate Action Failure


Climate Action Failure

Weapons of Mass Destruction


Natural Disaster

Biodiversity Loss


Biodiversity Loss

Extreme Weather


Human-made Environmental Disasters

Water Crisis


Data Fraud or Theft

Information Infrastructure Breakdown



Natural Disasters


Water Crisis



Global Governance Failure

Human-made Environmental Disasters


Asset Bubble

Infectious Diseases

The Global Risks Report 2020 has categorised all risks into five broad categories:

1. Economic Risks: Unemployment, critical infrastructure failure, financial failure, asset bubbles, fiscal crisis, deflation, unmanageable inflation, energy price shock and illicit trade.

2. Environmental Risks: Extreme weather, climate action failure, natural disasters, human-made environmental disasters and biodiversity loss.  

3. Geopolitical Risks: Global governance failure, national governance failure, weapons of mass destruction, state collapse, interstate conflict and terrorist attacks.

4. Societal Risks: Social instability, involuntary migration, failure of urban planning, water crisis, food crisis and infectious diseases.

5. Technological Risks: Cyberattacks, data fraud or theft, information infrastructure breakdown and adverse technological advances.

Global Risks Report 2020: Top Highlights

The climate-related issues dominated all top-five long-term risks in terms of likelihood. The other threats included geopolitical instability and economic slowdown.

Biodiversity loss was listed as the second most impactful and third most likely risk in the coming decade. The current rate of extinction is reported to be much higher than the average rate over the past 10 million years.

Biodiversity loss is expected to have critical implications on the human race, starting from the collapse of food and health systems to the disruption of the entire supply chain.

Another key concern is the rising use of digital technology, which though is bringing tremendous economic and societal benefits to the global population, it also gives rise to potential risks such as unequal access to the internet, lack of global technology governance framework and cyber insecurity.

The report further highlights how growing geopolitical instability and geo-economic uncertainty threatens to prevent the full potential of next-generation technologies from being realized. Information infrastructure breakdown was listed as the sixth most impactful risk in the next 10 years.

The report also highlights that the vulnerabilities surrounding the health systems across the world due to changing societal, demographic, environmental and technological patterns threaten to undo the gains made in wellness in the past century.

Many non-communicable diseases have replaced infectious diseases to become the leading cause of death and the cost of managing such chronic diseases has put healthcare systems across the world under major stress.

The report further predicts the economic climate to continue to be challenging, especially in 2020, which could see increasing economic confrontations, discontent and domestic political polarization.

How to address the challenges?

The report suggests swift multi-stakeholder action to quickly to mitigate against the worst outcomes and build resilience across communities and businesses.

World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum, based in Geneva, was founded in 1971 to improve the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of the society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.

The forum brings together leaders from different government, businesses and non-profit organizations for action-oriented deliberations. It uses the conclusions of its annual global risks report to plan its multi-stakeholder initiatives throughout the year.


The Global Risks Report is a part of the World Economic Forum’s global risks initiative, which was launched in 2019. The initiative includes a sustained analysis of global risks at the global, regional and industry levels.

This qualitative and quantitative study, conducted along with other members of its different communities, aims to bring together all the concerned stakeholders in developing sustainable solutions to the world’s most burning issues.

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