The Global Risks Report 2024

The Global Risks Report 2024, from the World Economic Forum (WEF), examines the perceived risks to the world over a two year and ten year period.

The insights are underpinned by nearly two decades of data on global risk perception, from around 1,500 global leaders across academia, business, government, the international community and civil society. It also comprises insights from more than 200 thematic experts.

This year’s report cites a broad range of risks – combining economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological – among the top five over the next two years.

It is striking though that the ten-year outlook is dominated by environmental concerns – four of the top five biggest risks relate to climate and environmental breakdown.

Another interesting insight is that economic factors – so prevalent in the day-to-day concerns of people at present – only make up two of the top ten risks over the next two years and there are no economic factors that make the top ten over a ten-year period.

The risk report is a serious piece of work and may be a useful tool that company directors and risk committees. In particular, they may want to use as a guide to help them prioritise and plan for related ‘red flags’ in their own businesses.

However, the report is not infallible. Some of the worst crises just cannot be predicted – the report failed to foresee the outbreak of the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2019.


Environmental factors dominate the risk landscape, with two-thirds of respondents identifying extreme weather as the top risk most likely to present a material global crisis in 2024. It is also seen as the second-most severe risk over a two-year time frame. Nearly all environmental risks feature among the top 10 over the longer term – four of the top five relate to climate and environmental breakdown over a ten-year period.

The private sector highlights the environment as a top concern over the longer term. In contrast, there is more urgency to address these risks over shorter time frames from respondents in government or civil society.

The report noted that this ‘dissonance in perceptions of urgency’ among key decision-makers heightens the risk of missing ‘key moments of intervention’ that could result in long-term changes to planetary systems.

Gill Einhorn, head of the WEF’s Innovation and Transformation Centre for Nature and Climate, said: “We must recognize the full scale of the risk, but maintain the optimism that we can and will respond in a way to avoid and mitigate the worst risks from occurring. We are responsible for the potential 6th Mass Extinction — but are also uniquely positioned to respond to avert its worst consequences.”


The way that truth and lies are twisted, disseminated and used to manipulate outcomes in the highest offices of public life is the biggest concern among respondents over the next two years.

‘Misinformation and disinformation’ is also the fifth biggest risk over a ten year period.

It is easy to see why this ranks so highly, as close to three billion people are expected to head to the electoral polls across several economies – including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, the UK and US – over the next two years. The widespread use of misinformation and disinformation, and tools to disseminate it, may undermine the legitimacy of newly elected governments.

Beyond elections, perceptions of reality are likely to also become more polarised, infiltrating the public discourse on issues ranging from public health to social justice.

A plausible reaction to this is that governments could feel compelled to regulate and control information based on what they determine to be “true”.

Another top ‘technological’ risk over the two and ten-year period is cyber insecurity. A boom in new technologies is exposing more of the global population to potential digital and physical exploitation. Organised crime networks will increasingly adopt these new technologies, which will pose significant risks to individuals and legal businesses. New tools and capabilities will open new markets for criminal networks, with cybercrime offering an increasingly low-risk and low-cost revenue stream for organised crime.

The report noted that ‘over the coming years, more sophisticated cyber defences will shift targets towards less digitally literate individuals or less secure infrastructure and systems’.

Sean Doyle, lead of the WEF’s Cybercrime Atlas Initiative, said: “The gap between organisations that are able to make themselves cyber-resilient and those that cannot is growing. For example, cyber attackers are adopting new technologies, such as Generative AI tools, to increase the number of markets that they can target. Responding to this requires investment and the acquisition of talent that many organisations are either unable to meet or unaware of. Because of this, the proportion of organisations that can either protect themselves from cyber-attackers or recover from a cyber-attack is diminishing.”


Prioritising the future, instead of the here and now, is the only way for companies and boards to go. The report concludes that the actions of individual citizens, companies and countries may seem insignificant on their own, but they can move the dial on global risk reduction if they reach a critical mass.

About the author

image of Karl West

Karl West

Freelance journalist, podcaster and media adviser. Senior Consultant at The Institute of Directors.

Karl has more than 25 years of experience in the media sector, including several years at The Sunday Times and Daily Mail, where he wrote about business – mainly transport, defence and UK manufacturing industries.

He has a podcast – The All Points West Podcast – that interviews the founders, CEOs and Chairs of small and medium sized UK companies.

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