General, Research, Technology

The main threats of 2021 and the coming decade

Well, let's talk about the future?More precisely about the problems that it promises. In the new annual report of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the risks facing human civilization, infectious diseases and climate change are identified as the main threats in 2021. But this is just the tip of the iceberg towards which our Titanic is racing. According to researchers, the next decade will be marked by extreme weather conditions, anthropogenic damage to the environment, concentration of digital power, digital divide and cybersecurity failure. As for long-term risks, they are associated with weapons of mass destruction, collapse of states, loss of biodiversity and “hostile technological progress”. In the 16th Global Risk Report, researchers look back to 2020, devastated by a global pandemic, recession, political turmoil, and an ever-escalating climate crisis.

Environmental threats are among the most serious challenges facing humankind.


  • 1 Pandemic and climate change
  • 2 Short term threats (0-2 years)
  • 3 Medium-term risks (3-5 years)
  • 4 Long-term risks (5-10 years)

Pandemic and climate change

In February, the official website of the WEF wasThe 16th Global Risks Report has been released, highlighting the greatest risks to the planet over the next decade. The WEF is a Swiss nongovernmental organization that meets annually in Davos with leading business leaders, political leaders and eminent experts in various fields. Today, about 1,000 large companies and organizations are members of the WEF.

A 2006 report by the World EconomicForum (WEF) predicted that the deadly global influenza pandemic will become one of the greatest threats to humanity in the coming years. Last year, what pandemic experts have long feared has become a reality as global travel contributed to the worldwide spread of COVID-19. It is perhaps not surprising that infectious diseases rank first on the list of consequences for humanity for the next few years. Ultimately, the novel coronavirus pandemic has not only resulted in massive loss of life, but has also stifled economic development in some of the world's poorest parts, while increasing inequality around the world.

Illustration for the sixteenth WEF Annual Report on Global Risks.

"Immediate human and economicThe costs of COVID-19 are serious, ”the report says. "They threaten to undermine decades of progress in reducing global poverty and inequality and further undermine social cohesion and global cooperation."

At the same time, there are concerns thattackling the pandemic is taking resources away from other critical health problems, including the disruption of measles vaccination programs. However, despite the inevitable consequences of COVID-19, it is climate-related issues that make up the bulk of this year's list of risks, which the report describes as "an existential threat to humanity."

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Indeed, despite the reduction in emissionscaused by massive lockdowns and disruption to international trade and travel, there are concerns that as the economy begins to recover, carbon dioxide emissions will rise.

Short term threats (0-2 years)

The next couple of years according to the authors of the reportwill bring many problems to humanity, as the costs of a pandemic, both human and economic, are likely to be significant. The WEF study also predicts that the income gap between the world's richest and poorest countries will widen, and societies will become increasingly fragmented as a result of rising unemployment and damage to education following prolonged closures of schools and universities.

Unemployment and poverty are likely to rise sharply in the next two years as a result of the pandemic.

Moreover, researchers expect morerich countries will take giant leaps in digitalization when most businesses go online and their workforce continues to work from home. But poorer countries are unlikely to be able to replicate such digital advances, and this will inevitably lead to digital inequality.

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Medium-term risks (3-5 years)

The consequences of a pandemic can come in waves.While accelerating digitalization can bring tremendous benefits to society, it also carries with it the risk of over-reliance on technology and online decision-making tools that were previously made by people. Machine learning and sophisticated algorithms are increasingly being used to diagnose health problems, choose investments, assess educational achievement, and even predict the likelihood of reoffending in prisoners.

Digitalization is changing our world right now.

A growing reliance on algorithms that producelarge amounts of data can be serious as individuals and non-state groups use them to spread disinformation on a global scale. The authors of the report also note that disinformation campaigns have grown by 150 percent in the past two yearsand this figure is likely to increase.

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Long term risks (5-10 years)

Growing competition among some of the world's richest countries carries with it the threat of war over the next decade.Many powers - countries with growing economic power that could provide alternative pathways in technology, trade and security - may be forced to join a single global superpower rather than pursue a balanced global strategy and cordial relations with all.

According to the report, the threat of nuclear war could become very real over the next decade if tensions between some of the world's leading powers escalate.

The growth and development of nuclear weapons could lead to full-scale war.

According to the authors of the report, the changingthe political landscape and increasingly fragmented relations between countries can be disastrous. The absence of strong institutions or clear rules means that clashes can more often escalate into full-scale conflicts. Note that the 2021 Risk Report draws on data and insights from a wide range of respondents from the Global Risk Perception Survey conducted by the World Economic Forum. The survey was conducted by over 650 members of the Forum's various communities of leaders.