Global Cooperation

These are the biggest global risks we face in 2024 and beyond

From disinformation to inflation, these are the global risks we face in 2024.

From disinformation to inflation, these are the world's most pressing risks. Image: Unsplash/Ryoji Iwata

Sophie Heading
Lead, Global Risks, World Economic Forum
Ellissa Cavaciuti-Wishart
Head of Global Risks Initiative, World Economic Forum Geneva
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024 says the biggest short-term risk stems from misinformation and disinformation.
  • In the longer term, climate-related threats dominate the top 10 risks global populations will face.
  • Two-thirds of global experts anticipate a multipolar or fragmented order to take shape over the next decade.

The cascading shocks that have beset the world in recent years are proving intractable. War and conflict, polarized politics, a continuing cost-of-living crisis and the ever-increasing impacts of a changing climate are destabilizing the global order.

The key findings of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024 reflect these most pressing challenges faced by people in every region of the world.

A pessimistic global outlook

The report reveals a world “plagued by a duo of dangerous crises: climate and conflict.” These threats are set against a backdrop of rapidly accelerating technological change and economic uncertainty.

The findings are based on the Forum’s Global Risks Perception Survey, which gathers insights from nearly 1,500 global experts from academia, business, government, the international community and civil society.

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A chart showing the global outlook for the next 2 and 10 years.
The 2024 Global Risks Report predicts a stormy and unpredictable future. Image: Global Risks Report 2024, World Economic Forum

As the chart above shows, optimism among respondents was in short supply. More than half (54%) anticipate a significant degree of instability and a moderate risk of global catastrophes. Another 30% see things getting even worse, envisioning looming global catastrophes and with a “stormy” or “turbulent” period ahead in the next two years.

Expand that view out to 10 years and the pessimism among respondents grows. By 2034, almost two-thirds (63%) predict a stormy or turbulent world order.

Breaking down the risks

While climate-related risks remain a dominant theme, the threat from misinformation and disinformation is identified as the most severe short-term threat in the 2024 report.

A graphic showing the global outlook of risks for the next 2 and 10 years.
Disinformation and climate-related risks will dominate global threats for years to come. Image: Global Risks Report 2024, World Economic Forum

The growing concern about misinformation and disinformation is in large part driven by the potential for AI, in the hands of bad actors, to flood global information systems with false narratives.

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Over the next two years, the report states, “foreign and domestic actors alike will leverage misinformation and disinformation to widen societal and political divides”. This risk is enhanced by a large number of elections in the near future, with more than 3 billion people due to head to the polls in 2024 and 2025, including in major economies like the United States, India and the United Kingdom.

The report suggests that the spread of mis- and disinformation around the globe could result in civil unrest, but could also drive government-driven censorship, domestic propaganda and controls on the free flow of information.

In a 10-year context, climate-related risks contribute 5 of the top 10 threats as the world nears or crosses “climate tipping points”.

Current risk landscape.
The cost-of-living, cyberattacks and polarization of views also pose significant risks in the near-term. Image: Global Risks Report 2024, World Economic Forum

The risk posed by extreme weather events tops the list as nations remain unprepared for the “triggering of long-term, potentially irreversible and self-perpetuating changes to select planetary systems [which] could be passed at or before 1.5C of global warming, currently anticipated to be reached by the early 2030s”.

While the threat of extreme weather is seen as an immediate one, there was disagreement about the urgency of other climate-related risks such as the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem collapse. Concern about these risks was significantly higher among younger respondents to the survey, prompting fears that mitigation could be delayed beyond the point where meaningful action can be taken.

Opportunities for responding to global risks

With diminishing trust, political polarization and a volatile geopolitical landscape, the potential for cooperation to tackle global risks is under pressure. The report finds that solutions could emerge as a result of more localized cooperation on the part of nations, corporations and even individual citizens.

However, given the scale of the economic, political and environmental challenges the world is facing, the report concludes that, “cross-border collaboration at scale remains critical for risks that are decisive for human security and prosperity”.

This will be a focus at the 2024 World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, taking place under the theme Rebuilding Trust. The programme urges a “back to basics” spirit of open and constructive dialogue between leaders of government, business and civil society.”

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