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Preface
Summary
The Global Risks Landscape 2009
The Financial Crisis and Global Risks
Resource Challenges
Global Governance
The Risk Assessment
Global Risks Report
Contributors and Acknowledgements
  Global Risks 2009
    In collaboration with Citigroup, Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC)
    Swiss Re, Wharton School Risk Center, Zurich Financial Services
Global Risks 2009 Home   

Appendix 1: The Risk Assessment and Risk Barometer Printer friendly version  Send to a friend

The 36 risks were assessed in terms of their likelihood and their severity. In addressing likelihood, actuarial principles were applied where sufficient data existed, though for certain risks only qualitative assessments based on expert opinion are possible. In assessing severity, two indices were considered: destruction of assets/ economic damage and human lives lost. Both of these latter indices were used, resulting in separate analysis of risks by the two types of severity, though for some risks the lives lost criteria was deemed inapplicable. It should also be noted that although some risks by definition evolve over a longer term (e.g. climate change) and others could happen in the near term (e.g. oil price shock), the likelihood of all risks was evaluated with a 10-year time horizon.

The Global Risks "barometer" below shows how the qualitative 2009 assessment (completed in October 2008) of the likelihood and severity of each risk compares with the 2008 assessment.

Key:
  same assessment as last year   increase   not applicable for this risk
<br> decrease   new risk

# Economic Risks Likelihood Severity US$ Severity No. of Deaths
1 Food price volatility
Food prices peaked in mid-2008. Expectations are that food prices may be more volatile over the coming years.
# # #
2 Oil and gas price spike
In the short term, slowing global demand and fears of a further drop in global growth means the outlook for price spikes over the next 12 months is unlikely despite the OPEC in production in December 2008. The long-term trend is for rising demand and a potential return to tighter conditions.
# # #
3 Major fall in US$
Experts consider that the dollar could come under pressure as investors reflect on the long-term impact of current monetary expansion, high fiscal deficits and the continuing fragility of the US financial system.
# # #
4 Slowing Chinese economy (6%)
Though China's domestic market could help compensate for its loss of exports due to recession in the US and other markets, the government will need to encourage private spending to boost domestic consumption.
5 Fiscal crises
Demographic factors (ageing societies) are responsible for large uncovered liabilities in social security and public healthcare systems. The pressure on fiscal systems will be exacerbated by current bailout packages and fiscal programmes to jump-start growth.
6 Asset price collapse
Although prices for many assets (housing, equities, and corporate bonds) have declined dramatically, there is continued scope for further losses over a broad class of assets in the short term.
7 Retrenchment from globalization (developed)
The outlook is stable but some retrenchment is likely if governments revert to protectionist strategies in an effort to protect jobs as unemployment rises. Cross-border private investment may also decrease until investor confidence returns.
8 Retrenchment from globalization (emerging)
Experts considered that the risk of more inward-looking economic policies in emerging economies could also increase in reaction to the current financial turmoil.
9 Regulation cost
This risk was included in the assessment for the first time for 2009.
10 Underinvestment in infrastructure
This risk was included in the assessment for the first time for 2009
# Geopolitical Risks Likelihood Severity US$ Severity No. of Deaths
11 International terrorism
The perceived risk has decreased overall internationally but the risk remains relatively high in several countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.
12 Collapse of NPT
Though the controversial US-India nuclear deal was signed in 2008 and no progress was made on the Iranian programme, the outlook is for neither improvement nor deterioration compared to 2008.
13 US/ Iran conflict
With a new US administration entering office, the risk is perceived as less likely
14 US/ DPRK conflict
With a new US administration entering office, the risk is perceived as less likely.
15 Afghanistan instability
Experts judged that a degree of progress had been made but that the severity remains constant in cost and loss of life terms.
16 Transnational crime and corruption
Corruption continues to cost over US$ 1 trillion annually. Transnational crime remains endemic and related to a number of other global risks.
17 Israel-Palestine conflict
The likelihood of increased tensions is neither greater or less than in 2008. Note that this assessment was completed in October 2008.
18 Violence in Iraq
The likelihood of more violence has decreased slightly relative to 2008 but the costs and loss of life remain constant.
19 Global governance gaps
This risk was included in the assessment for the first time for 2009.
# Environmental Risks Likelihood Severity US$ Severity No. of Deaths
20 Extreme climate change-related weather
As the effects of climate change have begun to manifest themselves in weather events, this risk remains constant year on year but given that many of these incidents affect developing regions the number of deaths is likely to rise.
21 Droughts and desertification reduces agricultural yields
As the incidence of drought has risen, production has shifted where possible to less drought-prone areas or to more rought-resistant crops. Nonetheless, desertification remains a risk to incomes and health in vulnerable regions.
22 Loss of freshwater
Greater awareness and education and improved sanitation is slightly reducing the number of deaths but overall this risk is constant in terms of likelihood and severity.
23 Natural catastrophe: cyclone
Improved building standards and better warning information have to contributed to reducing loss of life from cyclones but the risk remains constant for relevant areas.
24 Natural catastrophe: earthquake
The threat of earthquakes remains the same as they are driven by geophysics. Improved building standards and response mechanisms are slightly reducing their impact.
25 Natural catastrophe: inland flooding
This risk rose over previous years, primarily due to flood plain development and an expected increase in climate change-related weather events but remains constant from 2008 to 2009.
26 Natural catastrophe: coastal flooding
This risk was included in the assessment for the first time for 2009.
27 Air pollution
This risk was included in the assessment for the first time for 2009.
28 Biodiversity loss
This risk was included in the assessment for the first time for 2009.
# Societal Risks Likelihood Severity US$ Severity No. of Deaths
29 Pandemic
Work continues on awareness and coordination among different agencies but the risk is constant, as is uncertainty about the nature of a potential outbreak.
30 Infectious disease
Though infection rates for some diseases are stabilizing in some regions, e.g. HIV/ AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, overall the risk remains constant and severe in terms of loss of life.
31 Chronic disease
The incidence of chronic disease is rising across both the developed and developing world. Medical advances and awareness can reduce the risk severity but chronic disease is still the main cause of death worldwide.
32 Liability regimes
Experts saw the risk of US-style liability regimes spreading to other countries as increasing.
33 Migration
This risk was included in the assessment for the first time for 2009.
34 Critical Information Systems (CII) breakdown
A balance between vulnerability due to increased interconnectivity and system dependency and improved security mean that experts judged this risk as stable.
35 Emergence of nanotechnology risks
As the study and use of nanotechnology and materials progresses, uncertainty remains about the potential risks involved.
36 Data fraud/ loss
This risk was included in the assessment for the first time for 2009.