The Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS) is the World Economic Forum’s source of original risks data, harnessing the expertise of the Forum’s extensive network of academic, business, government, civil society, and thought leaders. Survey responses were collected from 8 September to 12 October 2021 from the World Economic Forum’s multistakeholder communities (including the Global Shapers Community), the professional networks of its Advisory Board and members of the Institute of Risk Management. The results of the GRPS are used to create the graphics depicting the Global Risks COVID-19 Hindsight, Future Outlook, the Global Risks Horizon, Global Risks Severity, Global Risks Effects, and International Risk Mitigation Efforts presented at the beginning of the report and to offer insights used throughout.
Both the GRPS and the Global Risks Report adopt the following definition: a global risk is the possibility of the occurrence of an event or condition which, if it occurs, could cause significant negative impact for several countries or industries. For the purposes of this report, the scope is over the next 10 years.
The list of 37 global risks included in the survey was updated in 2021.
Two new risks were added in response to observed economic, geopolitical and environmental trends. These new risks are: (1) “Geoeconomic confrontations” and (2) “Pollution harms to human health”.
The names and definitions of the remaining 35 risks have been revised and, where applicable, have been modified and/or expanded to reflect new ways in which the risks may materialize and the potential adverse outcomes they may cause. However, to ensure comparability over time, although names and definitions were modified, the fundamental concept of the risk remained consistent with that in previous versions of the survey.
The GRPS 2021–2022 was extensively reformed this year together with fresher, broader, and more informed risk perceptions and to incorporate new approaches to risk management and analysis. The GRPS 2021–2022 is comprised of six sections:
1. COVID-19 Hindsight and Future Outlook (new): asks respondents to form an opinion about how the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated risks, permitting some comparability with GRPS results from previous years. This opinion then facilitates the projection of their views forward beyond the pandemic. This section also captures respondent sentiment on the outlook for the world to inform an analysis of how individual contexts may influence global risk perceptions and the perceived status of mitigation efforts.
2. Global Risks Horizon: recognizes that respondents may have varying perceptions on the evolution of global risks within a 10-year horizon. This section asks respondents to take a view on risks in the short term (0–2 years), medium-term (2–5 years), and long-term (5–10 years), also capturing respondents’ sense of urgency about global risks and informing an analysis of choices and trade-offs that may face decision-makers.
3. Global Risks Severity (new): asks respondents to rank the potential damage of a global risk over the next 10 years and reminds respondents to consider multiple criteria—including human suffering, societal disruption, economic shock, environmental degradation, and political instability. This section uses ranking rather than a 1–5 rating scale to allow respondents to answer the question with more confidence.
4. Global Risks Effects (new): recognizing that risks are not isolated but affect and amplify each other through negative feedback loops, this section incentivizes a holistic view of global risks by asking respondents to consider cascading impacts in conjunction with the severity of the risk itself.
5. Global Governance –International Risk Mitigation Efforts (new): recognizing that risk mitigation needs to be a part of the global agenda, this section asks respondents to assess the current state of international mitigation efforts in 15 global governance areas. It identifies achievements and areas of opportunity for global action and cooperation and informs an analysis of how the various stages of effectiveness may influence future preparedness.
6. Open Questions (new): complements risk identification with a series of questions to detect blind spots, trends, and shocks. This section ensures that the GRPS is a flexible and engaging mechanism to source expert knowledge.
For each of the 37 global risks listed in Appendix A, respondents were asked to identify three global risks that they believe had worsened since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. A simple tally for each of the 37 global risks was calculated on this basis. The results are illustrated in Figure I.
Respondents were asked to express their feeling about the outlook for the world in four sentiments: worried, concerned, positive, optimistic. A simple tally for each of the four sentiments was calculated on this basis. The results are illustrated in Figure 1.2.
Respondents were then asked to characterize their outlook for the world over the next 3 years with the following four answer options: accelerating global recovery; fracture trajectories, separating winners and losers; consistently volatile with multiple surprises; progressive tipping points with increasing catastrophic outcomes. A simple tally for each of the four sentiments was calculated on this basis. The results are illustrated in Figure 1.1.
For each of the 37 global risks listed in Appendix A, respondents were asked to identify when they believe a risk will become a critical threat to the world, within the following timeframes:
• Short-term threats: 0–2 year
• Medium-term threats: 2–5 years
• A simple tally for each of the 37 global risks was calculated on this basis. The results are illustrated in Global Risks Horizon (Figure II).
For each of the 37 global risks listed in Appendix A, respondents were asked to choose nine risks and rank order them from 1 to 9 according to their perceived severity of impact—“most severe” was defined as having the potential to yield the most damage on a global scale within the next 10 years. Respondents were asked to value the impact of risks considering multiple criteria, including human suffering, societal disruption, economic shock, environmental degradation, and political instability.
The results were aggregated according to the following scoring schedule:
• 9 points each time a risk was selected as the most severe risk
• 8 points each time a risk was selected as the second-most severe risk
• 7 points each time a risk was selected as the third-most severe risk
• 6 points each time a risk was selected as the fourth-most severe risk
• 5 points each time a risk was selected as the fifth-most severe risk
• 4 points each time a risk was selected as the sixth-most severe risk
• 3 points each time a risk was selected as the seventh-most severe risk
• 2 points each time a risk was selected as the eighth-most severe risk
A simple sum of the scores for each of the risks according to the above scoring schedule was calculated on this basis. The results are illustrated in Figure 1.3.
In the Global Risks Severitycomponent, for each of the risks ranked most severe, second-most severe, and third-most severe, respondents were then asked to select two risks that will be aggravated by those top severe risks.
A simple tally of the number of times a risk was identified as being aggravated by another for each of the most, second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-most severe risks was calculated on this basis. The results are illustrated in the Global Risks Effects (Figure III).
In the Global Risks Effects graph, the size of each of the most concerning risk nodes is scaled according to the above scoring schedule. The thickness of each of the links between a risk and the risks being aggravated is scaled according to the above tally.
From 15 international risk areas listed below, respondents were asked to rate the state each area was with regard to international risk mitigation efforts: “not started”, “early development”, “established”, or “effective”.
A simple tally for each of the four possible states was calculated on this basis.
The results are illustrated in Figure IV.
The 15 international areas were: Artificial Intelligence (e.g., autonomous weapons, bias); Basic resource security (food and water); Biodiversity preservation; Climate change mitigation; Cross-border cyberattacks and misinformation; Financial system stability; Human health crises; International crime; Migration and refugees; Natural disaster relief; Physical conflict resolution; Poverty alleviation; Space exploitation; Trade facilitation; Weapons of mass destruction.
A total of 1,183 responses to the GRPS were received. From these, 959 were kept, using as a threshold at least one non-demographic answer.
• Section 1 - COVID-19 Hindsight & Future Outlook: 959 respondents selected the three global risks.
- Future Sentiment: 957
- Future Outlook: 957
• Section 2 - Global Risks Horizon: 926 (0–2 years); 912 (2–5 years); 904 (5–10 years) respondents placed at least one risk within a possible timeframe. The results were computed among all respondents of the survey.
• Section 3 - Global Risks Severity: 893 respondents; 888 ranked at least one severe risk and assigned at least one driver.
• Section 4 - Global Risks Effects: 837 respondents identified at least one risk aggravating another.
• Section 5 - Global Governance–International Risk Mitigation Efforts: 829 (climate change)respondents scored at least one level of response, either global or regional. The results were computed among all respondents of each risk area within the section.
Figure C.1 presents some key descriptive statistics and information about the profiles of the respondents.