Income Inequality, Government Debt Are Biggest Risks for 2013

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For its latest report on global risk, the World Economic Forum surveyed more than 1,000 experts and industry leaders, who concluded that the outlook for the next 10 years is not encouraging. The group identified income inequality and “unsustainable government debt” as the two major risks, followed by rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The most-cited environmental risk was identified as a failure to adapt to climate change. The report’s editor said:

These global risks are essentially a health warning regarding our most critical systems. National resilience to global risks needs to be a priority so that critical systems continue to function despite a major disturbance.

The report suggests that governments have become “dangerously complacent” about health risks due to success in combating disease. A risk case based on resistance to antibiotics, chronic disease and a lack of protection for intellectual property rights could lead to a breakdown in today’s “hyperconnected” world.

Economic stresses are curtailing efforts to mitigate the effects and causes of climate change. The report suggests ways to make the strategic investments needed to deal with this particular risk.

Another risk results from the ubiquity of information and the speed with which it can be transmitted globally. The report cites the riots caused by the anti-Islamic film that was widely viewed on the Internet and played some role in the deaths at the U.S. embassy in Libya.

The report is available here.

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