Extreme weather seen as top 2018 global risk: WEF

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The charismatic strongman politics of US President Donald Trump and other national leaders threatens the world's ability to cope with climate change and increases the risk of geopolitical conflict, according to an annual survey of global leaders published by the Swiss-based World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday.

Its Global Risks Report released Wednesday is based on a survey of almost 1,000 experts and decision-makers from business, academia and other fields about 30 risks over a 10-year horizon.

'Most attacks on critical and strategic systems have not succeeded-but the combination of isolated successes with a growing list of attempted attacks suggests that risks are increasing.

A deteriorating geopolitical landscape is partly to blame for the pessimistic outlook in 2018, with 93 per cent of respondents saying they expect political or economic confrontations between major powers to worsen, and almost 80 per cent expecting an increase in risks associated with war involving major powers.

James Longworth, Head of Solution Architecture at Insight UK, responded to the news: "The new WEF's Global Risks Report 2018 confirmed once again that the threat of cyber-attacks is the modern times' sword of Damocles - always on the back of everyone's minds".

Environmental risks have grown more pronounced over the course of the thirteen years that the WEF has issued its Global Risks Report, and the likes of 2017's destructive hurricane season, extreme temperatures, and heavy rainfall are said to have contributed to their prominent position in the 2018 report.

For respondents from North America and East Asia and the Pacific, cyber attacks top the list of global risks of greatest concern for doing business. And while political unrest and the threat of a nuclear war was considered one of the top risks for the world, even this was overshadowed by the risk of extreme weather events, food, and water crises, large-scale involuntary migration, or ecosystem collapse that anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change may be abetting.

"A widening economic recovery presents us with an opportunity that we can not afford to squander to tackle the fractures that we have allowed to weaken the world's institutions, societies and environment", said Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, in a statement.

The key message served up by this year's edition, released today, is that while the race for economic growth in 2018 presents big opportunities to address numerous creaking systems that underpin our functioning planet, we are still very much struggling to keep pace with everything that is changing.

"This generation enjoys unprecedented technological, scientific and financial resources", but is "the first generation to take the world to the brink of a systems breakdown", Schwab wrote. At the same time cyber exposure is growing in companies and governments.

"Attacks are increasing, both in prevalence and disruptive potential. Only through collective action can we hope to meet the global challenge of cybersecurity", says Daniel Dobrygowski, Project Lead for Cyber Resilience at the World Economic Forum. Unfortunately, we now 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", Zurich Insurance Group's Martin urged.

Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation: The risk that governments and businesses will fail to take action against the impact of climate change is a real risk in 2018, the WEF said, citing President Trump's decision previous year to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement as an example. He said cyber was relatively under resourced in risk management.

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