Economic imbalances and social inequality risk reversing the gains of globalization, warns the World Economic Forum in its report Global Risks 2012. These are the findings of a survey of 469 experts and industry leaders, indicating a shift of concern from environmental risks to socioeconomic risks compared to a year ago. Respondents worry that further economic shocks and social upheaval could roll back the progress globalization has brought, and feel that the world’s institutions are ill-equipped to cope with today’s interconnected, rapidly evolving risks.
The findings of the survey fed into an analysis of three major risk cases: Seeds of Dystopia; Unsafe Safeguards and the Dark Side of Connectivity. The report analyses the top 10 risks in five categories – economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological – and also highlights “X Factor” risks, the wild card threats which warrant more research, including a volcanic winter, cyber neotribalism and epigenetics, the risk that the way we live could have harmful, inheritable effects on our genes. Key crisis management lessons from Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters are highlighted in a special chapter.