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13 major global risks that used to be the stuff of science fiction

Orbital debris, persistent extreme weather, digital meltdown, geomagnetic storms… the World Economic Forum considers some risky business.

THE THEME OF World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 report, just out this week, is “resilience”.

It includes a new a “national resilience measurement” to determine which countries are best positioned to manage catastrophe.

But no country would be able to bounce back from some of the risks included in the survey.

We picked out 13 of the more bizarre scenarios the Forum envisions.

13 major global risks that used to be the stuff of science fiction
1 / 13
  • Militarisation of space

    Risk category: Geopolitical Risk likelihood: 3.16/5 Description: Targeting of commercial, civil and military space assets and related ground systems as core to defence strategy. (Image: World Economic Forum)
  • Unintended consequences of nanotechnology

    Risk category: Technological Risk likelihood: 2.79/5 Description: The manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular level raises concerns on nanomaterial toxicity. (Image: Sony/Facebook)
  • Massive incidence of data fraud or theft

    Risk category: Technological Risk likelihood: 3.52/5 Description: Criminal or wrongful exploitation of private data on an unprecedented scale. (Image: Business Insider/Daniel Goodman)
  • Vulnerability to pandemics

    Risk category: Societal Risk likelihood: 3.2/5 Description: Inadequate disease surveillance systems, failed international coordination and the lack of vaccine production capacity. (Image: Youtube)
  • Vulnerability to geomagnetic storms

    Risk category: Environmental Risk likelihood: 2.59/5 Description: Critical communication and navigation systems disabled by effects from colossal solar flares. (Image: Youtube)
  • Unprecedented geophysica destruction

    Risk category: Environmental Risk likelihood: 3.17/5 Description: Existing precautions and preparedness measures fail in the face of geophysical disasters of unparalleled magnitude such as earthquakes, volcanic activity, landslides or tsunamis. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Critical systems failure

    Risk category: Technological Risk likelihood: 2.96/5 Description: Single-point system vulnerabilities trigger cascading failure of critical information infrastructure and networks. (Image: Dark Knight Rises via Youtube)
  • Rising rates of chronic disease

    Risk category: Societal Risk likelihood: 3.43/5 Description: Increasing burden of illness and long-term costs of treatment threaten recent societal gains in life expectancy and quality. (Image: Flickr/Tobyotter)
  • Persistent extreme weather

    Risk category: Environmental Risk likelihood: 3.7/5 Description: Increasing damage linked to greater concentration of property in risk zones, urbanization or increased frequency of extreme weather events. (Image: www.nhc.noaa.gov and en.wikipedia.org)
  • Proliferation of orbital debris

    Risk category: Technological Risk likelihood: 2.87/5 Description: Rapidly accumulating debris in high-traffic geocentric orbits jeopardises critical satellite infrastructure. (Image: Wally Pacholka/AstroPics.com/TWAN)
  • Massive digital misinformation

    Risk category: Technological Risk likelihood: 3.36/5 Description: Deliberately provocative, misleading or incomplete information disseminates rapidly and extensively with dangerous consequences. (Image: Jonty Wareing)
  • Species overexploitation

    Risk category: Environmental Risk likelihood: 3.68/5 Description: Threat of irreversible biodiversity loss through species extinction or ecosystem collapse. (Image: Wikimedia)
  • Unilateral resource nationalisation

    Risk category: Geopolitical Risk likelihood: 3.35/5 Description: Unilateral moves by states to ban exports of key commodities, stockpile reserves and expropriate natural resources. (Image: AP Photo/Association of Russian Polar Explorers)

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Business Insider
Business Insider is a business site with strong financial, media and tech focus.

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