Visualized: A Global Risk Assessment of 2022 and Beyond
Since the start of the global pandemic, we’ve been navigating through tumultuous waters, and this year is expected to be as unpredictable as ever.
In the latest annual edition of the Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), it was found that a majority of global leaders feel worried or concerned about the outlook of the world, and only 3.7% feel optimistic.
Ever year, the report identifies the top risks facing the world, as identified by nearly 1,000 surveyed experts and leaders across various disciplines, organizations, and geographies.
What global risks are leaders and experts most concerned about, and which ones are posing imminent threats? Let’s dive into the key findings from the report.
Methodology for WEF’s Global Risk Assessment
In the survey, respondents were asked to compare 37 different risks, which were broken down into five categories: economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal, and technological.
To get a sense of which risks were seen as more urgent than others, respondents were asked to identify when they believed these threats would become a serious problem to the world, based on the following timeframes:
- Short-term threats: 0-2 years
- Medium-term threats: 2-5 years
- Long-term threats: 5-10 years
By categorizing global risks into these time horizons, it helps provide a better idea of the problems that decision makers and governments may have to deal with in the near future, and how these risks may interrelate with one another.
When it comes to short-term threats, respondents identified societal risks such as “the erosion of social cohesion” and “livelihood crises” as the most immediate risks to the world.
|Timeframe||Category||Threat||% of Respondents|
|0-2 years||🟢 Environmental||Extreme weather||31.1%|
|0-2 years||🔴 Societal||Livelihood crises||30.4%|
|0-2 years||🟢 Environmental||Climate action failure||27.5%|
|0-2 years||🔴 Societal||Social cohesion erosion||27.5%|
|0-2 years||🔴 Societal||Infectious diseases||26.4%|
|0-2 years||🔴 Societal||Mental health deterioration||26.1%|
|0-2 years||🟣 Technological||Cybersecurity failure||19.5%|
|0-2 years||🔵 Economic||Debt crises||19.3%|
|0-2 years||🟣 Technological||Digital inequality||18.2%|
|0-2 years||🔵 Economic||Asset bubble burst||14.2%|
These societal risks have worsened since the start of COVID-19. And as emerging variants threaten our journey towards normalcy, the pandemic continues to wreak havoc worldwide, with no immediate signs of slowing down.
According to respondents, one problem triggered by the pandemic is rising inequality, both worldwide and within countries.
Many developed economies managed to adapt as office workers pivoted to remote and hybrid work, though many industries, such as hospitality, still face significant headwinds. Easy access to vaccines has helped these countries mitigate the worst effects of outbreaks.
Regions with low access to vaccines have not been so fortunate, and the economic divide could become more apparent as the pandemic stretches on.
A majority of respondents believe we’ll continue to struggle with pandemic-related issues for the next three years. Because of this, the medium-term risks identified by respondents are fairly similar to the short-term risks.
|Timeframe||Category||Threat||% of Respondents|
|2-5 years||🟢 Environmental||Climate action failure||35.7%|
|2-5 years||🟢 Environmental||Extreme weather||34.6%|
|2-5 years||🔴 Societal||Social cohesion erosion||23.0%|
|2-5 years||🔴 Societal||Livelihood crises||20.1%|
|2-5 years||🔵 Economic||Debt crises||19.0%|
|2-5 years||🟢 Environmental||Human environmental damage||16.4%|
|2-5 years||🟡 Geopolitical||Geoeconomic confrontations||14.8%|
|2-5 years||🟣 Technological||Cybersecurity failure||14.6%|
|2-5 years||🟢 Environmental||Biodiversity loss||13.5%|
|2-5 years||🔵 Economic||Asset bubble burst||12.7%|
The pressing issues caused by COVID-19 mean that many key governments and decision-makers are struggling to prioritize long-term planning, and no longer have the capacity to help out with global issues. For example, the UK government postponed its foreign aid target until at least 2024. If countries continue to prioritize themselves in an effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the inequality gap could widen even further.
Respondents also worry about rising debt levels triggering a crisis. The debt-to-GDP ratio globally spiked by 13 percentage points in 2020, a figure that will almost certainly continue to rise in the near future.
Respondents identified climate change as the biggest threat to humanity in the next decade.
|Timeframe||Category||Threat||% of Respondents|
|5-10 years||🟢 Environmental||Climate action failure||42.1%|
|5-10 years||🟢 Environmental||Extreme weather||32.4%|
|5-10 years||🟢 Environmental||Biodiversity loss||27.0%|
|5-10 years||🟢 Environmental||Natural resource crises||23.0%|
|5-10 years||🟢 Environmental||Human environmental damage||21.7%|
|5-10 years||🔴 Societal||Social cohesion erosion||19.1%|
|5-10 years||🔴 Societal||Involuntary migration||15.0%|
|5-10 years||🟣 Technological||Adverse tech advances||14.9%|
|5-10 years||🟡 Geopolitical||Geoeconomic confrontations||14.1%|
|5-10 years||🟡 Geopolitical||Geopolitical resource contestation||13.5%|
Climate inaction—essentially business as usual—could lead to a global GDP loss between 4% and 18%, with varying impacts across different regions.
Experts also pointed out that current decarbonization commitments made at COP26 last year still aren’t enough to slow warming to the 1.5°C goal set in the Paris Climate Agreement, so more action is needed to mitigate environmental risk.
That said, efforts to curb climate change and solve long-term issues will likely have negative short-term impacts on the global economy and society. So risk mitigation efforts need to be in place as we work to reach net-zero and ultimately slow down climate change.
Risk Mitigation Efforts
People’s thoughts on risk mitigation were gauged in the WEF survey. Respondents were asked to identify which risks our world is most equipped to handle, and which ones they believe we’re less prepared for.
“Trade facilitation,” “international crime,” and “weapons of mass destruction” were risks that respondents felt we’ve effectively prepared for. On the flip side, “artificial intelligence” and “cross-border cyberattacks and misinformation” are areas where most respondents think we’re most unprotected against.
As society becomes increasingly reliant on digital infrastructure, experts predict we will see an uptick in cyber attacks and cybercrime. New AI-enabled technologies that offer ransomware-as-a-service allow anyone to engage in cybercrime—even those without the technical knowledge needed to build malware.
How Do We Move Forward?
Based on the findings from this year’s survey, WEF identified five lessons that governments, businesses, and decision-makers should utilize in order to build resilience and prepare for future challenges:
- Build a holistic mitigation framework: Rather than focusing on specific risks, it’s helpful to identify the big-picture worst-case scenario and work back from there. Build holistic systems that protect against adverse outcomes.
- Consider the entire ecosystem: Examine third-party services and external assets, and analyze the broader ecosystem in which you operate.
- Embrace diversity in resilience strategies: Not all strategies will work across the board. Complex problems will require nuanced efforts. Adaptability is key.
- Connect resilience efforts with other goals: Many resilience efforts could benefit multiple aspects of society. For instance, efficient supply chains could strengthen communities and contribute to environmental goals.
- Think of resilience as a journey, not a destination: Remaining agile and vigilant is vital when building out resilience programs, as these efforts are new and require reflection in order to improve.
The next few years will be riddled with complex challenges, and our best chance at mitigating these global risks is through increased collaboration and consistent reassessment.
Which Countries Produce the Most Wheat?
Global wheat production is concentrated in just a handful of countries. Here’s a look at the top wheat-producing countries worldwide.
Visualizing Global Wheat Production by Country (2000-2020)
Wheat is a dietary staple for millions of people around the world.
After rice and corn (maize), wheat is the third most-produced cereal worldwide, and the second-most-produced for human consumption. And considering wheat’s importance in the global food system, any impact on major producers such as droughts, wars, or other events, can impact the entire world.
Which countries are the largest producers of wheat? This graphic by Kashish Rastogi visualizes the breakdown of 20 years of global wheat production by country.
Top 10 Wheat Producing Countries
While more than 80 different countries produce wheat around the world, the majority of global wheat production comes from just a handful of countries, according to data from The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Here’s a look at the top 10 wheat-producing countries worldwide, based on total yield in tonnes from 2000-2020:
|Rank||Country||Continent||Total yield (tonnes, 2000-2020)||% of total (2000-2020)|
|#1||🇨🇳 China||Asia & Oceania||2.4 B||17.0%|
|#2||🇮🇳 India||Asia & Oceania||1.8 B||12.5%|
|#3||🇷🇺 Russia||Asia & Oceania||1.2 B||8.4%|
|#4||🇺🇸 U.S.||Americas||1.2 B||8.4%|
|#5||🇫🇷 France||Europe||767 M||5.4%|
|#6||🇨🇦 Canada||Americas||571 M||4.0%|
|#7||🇩🇪 Germany||Europe||491 M||3.5%|
|#8||🇵🇰 Pakistan||Asia & Oceania||482 M||3.4%|
|#9||🇦🇺 Australia||Asia & Oceania||456 M||3.2%|
|#10||🇺🇦 Ukraine||Europe||433 M||3.1%|
China, the world’s largest wheat producer, has yielded more than 2.4 billion tonnes of wheat over the last two decades, making up roughly 17% of total production from 2000-2020.
A majority of China’s wheat is used domestically to help meet the country’s rising food demand. China is the world’s largest consumer of wheat—in 2020/2021, the country accounted for approximately 19% of global wheat consumption.
The second-largest wheat-producing country is India. Over the last two decades, India has produced 12.5% of the world’s wheat. Like China, India keeps most of its wheat domestic because of significant food demand across the country.
Russia, the world’s third-largest wheat producer, is also the largest global exporter of wheat. The country exported more than $7.3 billion worth of wheat in 2021, accounting for approximately 13.1% of total wheat exports that year.
Russia-Ukraine Impact on Global Wheat Market
Because Russia and Ukraine are both significant global wheat producers, the ongoing conflict between the two countries has caused massive disruptions to the global wheat market.
The conflict has had an impact on adjacent industries as well. For instance, Russia is one of the world’s major fertilizer suppliers, and the conflict has led to a global fertilizer shortage which could lead to food shortages worldwide.
3 Reasons for the Fertilizer and Food Shortage
Bad weather, the war in Ukraine, and a shortage of fertilizer have led to fears of a global food crisis. Here are three factors you should know.
3 Reasons for the Fertilizer and Food Shortage
Bad weather, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a shortage of fertilizer have led to fears of a global food crisis.
This infographic will help you understand the problem by highlighting three key factors behind the mounting food crisis.
#1: The Fertilizer Shortage
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the war has disrupted shipments of fertilizer, an essential source of nutrients for crops.
Russia is the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilizer and ranks second in phosphorus and potassium fertilizer exports. Belarus, a Russian ally also contending with Western sanctions, is another major fertilizer producer. In addition, both countries collectively account for over 40% of global exports of the crop nutrient potash.
Here are the top 20 fertilizer exporters globally:
|Rank||Country||Exports Value (Billions in USD)|
|#5||🇺🇸 United States||$4.1|
|#6||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||$3.6|
The main destination of fertilizer exports from Russia are large economies like India, Brazil, China, and the United States.
However, many developing countries—including Mongolia, Honduras, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, and Guatemala—rely on Russia for at least one-fifth of their fertilizer imports.
Furthermore, the war intensified trends that were already disrupting supply, such as increased hoarding by major producing nations like China and sharp jumps in the price of natural gas, a key feedstock for fertilizer production.
#2: Global Grain Exports
The blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet, along with Western sanctions against Russia, has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks, causing inflation in food and energy prices around the world.
This is largely because Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly one-third of the global wheat supply. Wheat is one of the most-used crops in the world annually, used to make a variety of food products like bread and pasta. Additionally, Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil, and rapeseed oil.
|Producer||Grain Exports in Million Tons (MT)|
|🇺🇸 United States||93MT|
|🇷🇺 Russia & 🇺🇦 Ukraine||87MT|
As a result of the blockade, Ukraine’s exports of cereals and oilseed dropped from six million tonnes to two million tonnes per month. After two months of negotiations, the two countries signed a deal to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, raising hopes that the international food crisis can be eased.
#3: Recent Food Shortages
Besides the war in Ukraine, factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change resulted in nearly one billion people going hungry last year, according to United Nations.
France’s wine industry saw its smallest harvest since 1957 in 2021, with an estimated loss of $2 billion in sales due to increasingly higher temperatures and extreme weather conditions.
Heat, drought, and floods also decimated crops in Latin America, North America, and India in recent months. Between April 2020 and December 2021, coffee prices increased 70% after droughts and frost destroyed crops in Brazil.
In the face of multiple crises, the World Bank recently announced financial support of up to $30 billion to existing and new projects in areas such as agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water, and irrigation.
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