Worse than wars: WEF named the main risks of 2024

The organizers of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which will be held in Davos, Switzerland from January 15 to 19, have compiled the traditional “Global Risks Report”. It is based on a survey of 1,490 businessmen, politicians, scientists, public figures and 200 specialized analysts.

It is noteworthy that a year ago, in a similar report on global risks, the greatest fears among the people of Davos were the slowing economy. In the current situation, all concerns about “economic dangers” — lack of income opportunities, inflation, forced migration, falling GDP and environmental pollution — have faded into the background. The pandemic, which inspired horror in 2020, seems to have ceased to be remembered altogether — infectious diseases did not even make it into the top twenty major threats.

Politicians and experts surveyed named the most serious risks for 2024-2025:

Disinformation, including that generated by artificial intelligence (AI). Extreme weather events. Social polarization. Cyber attacks. Interstate armed conflicts.

offers to find out why these five global threats are considered the most significant.

Why is disinformation the #1 risk?

In 2024, 70 to 80 countries, accounting for half the world's population and generating 60% of GDP, will hold presidential, parliamentary or general elections. Voting will take place in the largest democracies of the United States and India, in authoritarian-ruled Russia and Iran, as well as in politically explosive Pakistan and Venezuela.. All these states will become vulnerable to the injection of false information, which AI has learned to generate in good quality and in huge quantities.

“Disinformation and the availability of tools for its dissemination can undermine the legitimacy of newly elected governments. Subsequent unrest could range from violent protests and hate crimes to civil confrontation and terrorism,” the WEF report said.

Experts fear that a barrage of fake news will reduce trust in the media and governments as sources of information.. This will deepen differences of opinion and provoke civil unrest and clashes. It is possible that in the worst cases, doubts about the integrity of elections and related conflicts will lead to the collapse of states.

The fight against fakes also worries the people of Davos. Experts interviewed by the WEF suggested it would increase censorship, domestic propaganda and government control over the free flow of information.

Why is extreme weather the No. 2 global threat?

Average annual temperature in 2023 is 1.48°C above pre-industrial levels. Last year was the hottest on record, with droughts, catastrophic floods and forest fires. With this in mind, analysts have placed extreme climate events in second place on the list of the biggest threats to humanity.

Two-thirds (66%) of WEF respondents expressed the view that weather changes are likely to create a material crisis on a global scale in the next year or two.

The Earth is getting hotter not only due to human-caused global warming, but also due to El Niño, a phenomenon of warming surface water in the Pacific Ocean.. Extreme temperatures increase demand for air conditioning, overloading energy systems and leading to blackouts. They also pose a serious threat to people's health, increasing the likelihood of heatstroke, heart attacks and strokes.

Why is social polarization so dangerous?

Societies that are polarized, that is, divided into groups with opposing views or ideas, are more likely to absorb information (true or false) that confirms their beliefs. Distrust of the government and the media encourages people to learn about events from “one-sided” and often manipulative groups on social networks. This increases polarization to a toxic level where groups of people hate each other and lose respect for opposing opinions and counter-arguments.

This problem has long been clearly manifested in Ukraine, and in the near future it may undermine the United States, a country with the strongest economy and army, from within.. The British Time magazine, in its own ranking of “10 Global Risks of 2024,” put in first place the threat of the United States starting a war against itself. The presidential elections in the United States, according to Time's forecast, will worsen the political division of American society and provoke an internal conflict that will draw the attention of the world media away from Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, and undermine Washington's authority in the international arena.

What's the worst thing to expect from cyber attacks?

The cybercrime industry has grown by leaps and bounds and is ruining the lives of all segments of the population. Fraudulent call centers extract millions of dollars from the pockets of naive pensioners, and serious hackers constantly paralyze critical infrastructure, steal and delete data, and infect computer systems with malware.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, damage to the global economy from cyber attacks will reach $10.5 trillion next year.. This is almost double the US government budget.

Experts interviewed by the WEF expect that AI systems capable of acting autonomously will soon join gangs of digital criminals. They will have unpredictable transformative effects on computer networks and connected infrastructure. Particularly alarming is the fact that AI programs for digital attacks, along with autonomous weapons systems, are being developed at the state level by China, North Korea, Iran, Israel, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, India and Russia. All of these countries reject proposals for international regulation of AI systems.

What to expect from military conflicts?

The WEF report identifies three “key hotspots” where escalation is possible with significant consequences for the geopolitical order and the global economy. These are Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Conflicts may also escalate in the Balkans, Libya, Syria, Pakistani Kashmir, Guyana, the Kurdistan Region and the Korean Peninsula. In addition, experts allow the emergence of new wars in 20 countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Japan.

Analysts expect that in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the next two years, intense phases of hostilities will alternate with periods of “freezing”. In case of escalation, it will not come to the use of nuclear weapons, but the conflict could expand to neighboring countries.

Israel's war with the Palestinians, according to a WEF survey, is being scaled up by including stronger players, including Western countries and Iran.. As it spreads across the Middle East, this conflict could create earthquakes in global energy markets and disrupt international supply chains.