The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
The suits are pressed and the jets are gassed up, as global political and business leaders prepare to converge in Davos for the World Economic Forum.
To prep the wide variety of world leaders attending the summit, the organization has just published its most recent edition of the Global Risks Report. The highly anticipated annual presentation puts the world’s most pressing issues into focus, giving a sense of what is top-of-mind for global decision-makers.
Below are the top five risks highlighted in this year’s report.
The World’s Evolving Risk Landscape
The report looks at two specific ways of evaluating global risks:
- The likelihood of an event occurring
- The impact or severity of an event, should it occur
And over recent years, it’s clear that the composition of these top threats has evolved.
In 2009, the world was still reeling from the global financial crisis, so economic concerns were naturally at the forefront of discussions.
Today, the most likely scenarios to play out in the near future involve extreme weather events and natural disasters. Also trending upward are cyber-security threats and concerns over the security of personal data.
Each year, the Global Risks Perception Survey looks at which risks are viewed by global decision-makers as increasing in the coming year.
Some clear themes emerge from the responses:
A Breakdown in Geopolitical Cooperation
From trade wars to the dissolution of weapons treaties, cooperation between countries is on the decline. Leaders are concerned that this divergent geopolitical climate may continue to inhibit collective progress on important global challenges.
As the influence of technology creeps into more aspects of everyday life, cyber-attacks and lax cybersecurity protocols are becoming more of a concern. In one dramatic example information theft, multiple breaches of India’s government ID database reportedly left the information of over 1 billion registered citizens exposed. Technology is influencing society in other ways too, such as the pervasive issue of “fake news”.
Polarization of Government and Society
One of the major themes of this year’s forum will be addressing increasing polarization in many countries.
Where opposing political groups previously expressed frustration with each other, they now express fear and anger.
– Global Risks Report 2019
Gauging the National Sentiment
The report also looks at questions related to human happiness too.
One might ask, “Is the world becoming a better or worse place?” That, of course, is a complicated question, and one that is influenced by geography and socioeconomic standing.
Survey data also shows that when people are asked to compare their lives to their parents’ generation, the answers vary greatly from country to country.
The prevailing opinion in China is that things are improving, whereas nearly 60% of French respondents had a pessimistic view of the realities facing their generation. While France has a uniquely gloomy outlook on the future, this uncertainty is reflected in the opinion of citizens in many other developed democracies as well.
In Davos, global leaders will be pondering a similar question: How do we move towards a brighter future for the next generation when the collective will for tackling global problems appears to be weakening?
What is a Commodity Super Cycle?
The prices of energy, agriculture, livestock and metals tell the story of human development. Learn about the commodity super cycle in this infographic.
Visualizing the Commodity Super Cycle
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the world has seen its population and the need for natural resources boom.
As more people and wealth translate into the demand for global goods, the prices of commodities—such as energy, agriculture, livestock, and metals—have often followed in sync.
This cycle, which tends to coincide with extended periods of industrialization and modernization, helps in telling a story of human development.
Why are Commodity Prices Cyclical?
Commodity prices go through extended periods during which prices are well above or below their long-term price trend. There are two types of swings in commodity prices: upswings and downswings.
Many economists believe that the upswing phase in super cycles results from a lag between unexpected, persistent, and positive trends to support commodity demand with slow-moving supply, such as the building of a new mine or planting a new crop. Eventually, as adequate supply becomes available and demand growth slows, the cycle enters a downswing phase.
While individual commodity groups have their own price patterns, when charted together they form extended periods of price trends known as “Commodity Super Cycles” where there is a recognizable pattern across major commodity groups.
How can a Commodity Super Cycle be Identified?
Commodity super cycles are different from immediate supply disruptions; high or low prices persist over time.
In our above chart, we used data from the Bank of Canada, who leveraged a statistical technique called an asymmetric band pass filter. This is a calculation that can identify the patterns or frequencies of events in sets of data.
Economists at the Bank of Canada employed this technique using their Commodity Price Index (BCPI) to search for evidence of super cycles. This is an index of the spot or transaction prices in U.S. dollars of 26 commodities produced in Canada and sold to world markets.
- Energy: Coal, Oil, Natural Gas
- Metals and Minerals: Gold, Silver, Nickel, Copper, Aluminum, Zinc, Potash, Lead, Iron
- Forestry: Pulp, Lumber, Newsprint
- Agriculture: Potatoes, Cattle, Hogs, Wheat, Barley, Canola, Corn
- Fisheries: Finfish, Shellfish
Using the band pass filter and the BCPI data, the chart indicates that there are four distinct commodity price super cycles since 1899.
The first cycle coincides with the industrialization of the United States in the late 19th century.
The second began with the onset of global rearmament before the Second World War in the 1930s.
The third began with the reindustrialization of Europe and Japan in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
- 1996 – Present:
The fourth began in the mid to late 1990s with the rapid industrialization of China
What Causes Commodity Cycles?
The rapid industrialization and growth of a nation or region are the main drivers of these commodity super cycles.
From the rapid industrialization of America emerging as a world power at the beginning of the 20th century, to the ascent of China at the beginning of the 21st century, these historical periods of growth and industrialization drive new demand for commodities.
Because there is often a lag in supply coming online, prices have nowhere to go but above long-term trend lines. Then, prices cannot subside until supply is overshot, or growth slows down.
Is This the Beginning of a New Super Cycle?
The evidence suggests that human industrialization drives commodity prices into cycles. However, past growth was asymmetric around the world with different countries taking the lion’s share of commodities at different times.
With more and more parts of the world experiencing growth simultaneously, demand for commodities is not isolated to a few nations.
Confined to Earth, we could possibly be entering an era where commodities could perpetually be scarce and valuable, breaking the cycles and giving power to nations with the greatest access to resources.
Each commodity has its own story, but together, they show the arc of human development.
The World’s Most Innovative Economies
What countries have the most innovative economies? This index uses seven equally-weighted variables, including R&D spending and patents, to rank countries.
The World’s 10 Most Innovative Economies
In the 21st century, innovation has become the heart and soul of economic policy. Developed and developing nations alike are in the race to leave industrialization behind, adapting instead to technology-focused, entrepreneurial societies.
Customized cancer treatment, faux meat products, and the smart home technologies are frequently positioned as ‘the next big thing’. But which countries are consistently innovating the most?
Today’s graphic comes from the seventh annual Bloomberg Innovation Index and highlights the 10 most innovative economies, and the seven metrics used to rank 2019’s top contenders.
Bloomberg calculated each country’s innovation score using seven equally-weighted metrics.
- R&D Spending
All research and development funding invested in an economy each year.
- Patent Activity
Number of domestic patents filed, total patent grants, patents per population, filings per GDP, and total grants awarded measured against the global total.
- Tertiary Efficiency
Total enrollment at post-secondary institutions, graduation levels, and number of science and engineering graduates.
- Manufacturing Value-added
Manufacturing output levels that contribute to exports and domestic economic growth.
Overall productivity levels of the working-age population.
- High-tech Density
Number of domestic high-tech public companies, measured against the number of domestic public companies and the global total of public high-tech companies.
- Researcher Concentration
Number of professionals currently engaged in research and development roles.
More than 200 countries were initially considered for Bloomberg’s Innovation Index. Any country reporting in less than six categories was automatically eliminated, leaving 95 countries remaining. Bloomberg publishes the results for the top 60 most innovative economies each year.
Notable Countries in the Top 60
The U.S. rejoined the top 10 after dropping to 11th in 2018 for low scores in education. Israel moved up five spots to 5th place, while Romania made the largest overall gain, jumping six spots to rank in the top 30.
|2019 Rank||Economy||Total Score||Change in Ranking|
|#1||🇰🇷 South Korea||87.38||0|
|#8||🇺🇸 United States||83.21||3|
Brazil rejoined the list at number 45, after not being included on the 2018 list. The United Arab Emirates made the list for the first time, marking the highest debut ever at number 46.
Tunisia and Ukraine were the two countries with the largest losses, which both fell out of the top 50 this year. To date, South Africa is the only Sub-Saharan nation to be ranked in the index.
Newcomers to the Innovation Index in 2019 are some of the largest emerging economies, such as India, Mexico, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia.
Impact of Global Innovation
Innovation is complex─many factors play a role in the ideation, development, and commercialization of any new technology. And while innovation success can fuel economic growth, it is generally more accessible in high-income economies, where R&D funding is readily available.
“The battle for control of the global economy in the 21st century will be won and lost over control of innovative technologies.”
—Tom Orlik, Bloomberg Economics
The focus of an economy that prioritizes innovation, however, is not simply allocating resources for a group of people─it’s discovering new methods, models, and products that create a better quality of life for society.
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