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The power brokers take on top five risks for 2013

Ahead of its annual meeting in Davos, the World Economic Forum collates the views of over 1,000 experts from industry, government, academia and civil society to reveal the biggest fears in the year ahead.

Centres of gravity

For each of the five categories, survey-takers were asked to pick a 'Centre of Gravity' – the one risk that they thought is the systemically most important one in that group. Due to their influence on other risks, these are the risks to which leaders and policy-makers should pay particularly close attention.

The top selected risks for Centres of Gravity this year are:

  • major systemic financial failure (economic)
  • failure of climate change adaptation (environmental)
  • global governance failure (geopolitical)
  • water supply crises (societal)
  • critical systems failure (technological)

Three of the centres of gravity have changed from last year’s report, in the economic, environmental and societal categories.

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Systemic financial failure

Fear of systemic financial collapse is now the biggest economic fear of respondents to the survey, taking the place of chronic fiscal imbalances, which was the biggest worry last year.

The perceived threat posed by severe disparities in incomes, meanwhile, has become a bigger worry.

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Failure of climate change adaptation

In terms of environmental risks, a failure to adapt to the changing climate is now the biggest fear among those surveyed. Last year rising levels of greenhouse gasses were the main worry.

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Water supply crises

In the societal risks category the threat posed by water supply crises has risen to the top of the list. This fear pushes the threat of unsustainable population growth, last's year's number-one worry, into second place.

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Global governance failure

Although the percentage of respondents citing global governance failure as their biggest geopolitical fear has fallen from over 40% to 29%, it's still in the number-one slot.

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Critical systems failure

A failure of critical systems remains the biggest technological fear, although the perceived threat of cyber attacks, unforeseen consequences of climate change mitigation and mineral resource supply vulnerability have all increased this time around.

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