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Chain reactions

Managing big global risks

“You observe how wisely mother Nature, the parent and creator of the human race, has seen to it that some spice of folly shall nowhere be lacking”, wrote Erasmus from Rotterdam. It is a powerful image, evoking all the mystery and the contradiction of a world still nowadays ruled by humankind but actually unpredictable. In the third millennium, risks with a potential global impact such as wars, environmental and industrial catastrophes, cyberattacks or economic crisis are a challenge that mankind has to face. Global risks, in particular, are interconnected, therefore the consequences are even more tragic when affecting entire systems or activating dangerous chain reactions, such as those caused by global warming, the very issue at the centre of the next Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris.

In order to manage global risks and our exposure to them, it is necessary to adopt a rational, systemic and forward-looking approach and to involve the greatest amount of stakeholders. It is up to the people, organizations and countries to take action and adequately address global risks. Preventing and countering geopolitical, social, economic, environmental and technological risks today has become one of the most important and difficult challenges of our century.


Some figures:

  • $180 bln, estimate average losses from earthquakes and cyclonic wind every year
  • 54 mln, the estimate of people affected by river floods by 2030
  • 1.5 bln, the people affected by land degradation
  • 60 mln, the individuals displaced worldwide because of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations in 2014
  • $2500 bln, the overall direct cost of disasters in the 21st century