WEF risk survey offers mixed messages for water

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Results of the latest global risk survey from the World Economic Forum suggest a water crisis is seen as less of a concern compared to last year, but at the same time there is considerably greater concern around climate change, where many impacts are felt through water.

The 2016 Global Risks Report ranks water crises as the third most impactful global risk, while it was ranked top last year. The survey gathers the opinions of experts and decision makers, with almost 750 reponding this year. Last year’s top ranking provided people in the sector with a high profile shorthand for underlining just how important water is as an issue, offering an opportunity to talk up the sector’s business appeal given the focus of WEF.

Last year’s survey also placed water crises in eighth place in terms of likelihood over the next decade. That ranking undermines the value of the top ranking as far as impact is concerned: yes a global water crisis would be impactful, but it was not seen as being likely. The 2016 results are similar, with water crises ranked ninth in terms of likelihood.

This year’s survey results do though suggest growing concerns around climate change. Extreme weather events were seen as the second most likely global risk, with a failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation placed third. The top global risk was large-scale involuntary migration.

Not only that, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation is ranked in the latest report as the top risk in terms of impact. Large-scale involuntary migration was ranked behind water crises in terms of impact, being placed fourth.

This year’s report also revealed substantial differences in terms of regional concerns amongst the survey respondents. Water crises were viewed as the most likely risk for the next decade in Middle East / North Africa and South Asia. Cyber attacks were viewed as the most likely risk in North America, while in Europe it was large-scale involuntary migration that was seen as most likely. The most likely risk in Latin America and in Sub-Saharan Africa was a failure of national governance. Extreme weather events were ranked second in North America, South Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific.


  • water resources, climate change