Future Earth, Sustainability in the Digital Age and the International Science Council are pleased to share the findings of the second annual survey of scientists’ perceptions of risks in the Global Risks Perceptions Report 2021. This new report was launched during a live webinar on December 13, 2021 that featured members of the survey’s Scientific Advisory Committee and the Head of Global Risks and Geopolitical Agenda at the World Economic Forum (WEF) > https://vimeo.com/657627912.

The survey was directly inspired by the WEF’s fundamental work in risk perceptions analysis over the last 16 years. Our survey asked scientists for their evaluation of the likelihood and impact of the 35 global risks identified by the WEF in their annual survey of the business and economics communities. 

Risk perception dictates risk governance, management and action. As such, the goal of our work is to identify convergence and divergence in perceptions of risk, and to help build a global community working towards solutions to global risks. 

The report highlights several key messages. 

  • Scientists systematically ranked likelihood and impact of global risks higher than members of business and economic communities.
  • All surveyed communities rated environmental risks among the most urgent global risks humanity faces today and as highly interconnected with other global risks.
  • Technological risks are now seen as more likely to occur, compared to earlier findings.
  • Five risks emerge as most likely to form an interconnected cluster of risks and lead to a global systemic crisis: failure to take climate action – biodiversity loss – infectious disease – extreme weather events – human environmental damage.
  • Scientists highlighted the need to prioritize inequality as a standalone risk in assessments and perception analyses.
  • Business and science communities are only two groups of many more with perspectives relevant to dialogues about global risks. There is a continued need to learn from each other and build a global community around mitigating risks.

The covid 19 pandemic has brought forward the importance of assessing risk and has demonstrated the systematic nature of risk in an interconnected world with impacts cascading across sectors and scale. We not only need to look at prominent risks […] but also increasingly, at how risk is reinforced and compounded with the potential to ultimately undermine progress towards sustainable development. Decision-makers and knowledge producers need to take into account a much wider array of risks to develop integrated solutions that address root causes and achieve co-benefits in terms of sustainability,” Anne-Sophie Stevance of the International Science Council. 

Dr. Eliane Ubalijoro, Global Hub Director for Future Earth Canada and Executive Director of Sustainability in the Digital Age, closed the launch event with optimistic remarks. “This launch today has focused on how we can use our transdisciplinarity to think collectively together, to prepare for the emerging future. We do so, knowing that we have to address what we’re facing with deep humility, that we are in a VUCA world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Understanding the full landscape of risk really will require a collective intelligence, to contribute to visioning and understanding with clarity, the agile ways we can move forward.