The Five Global Risks We Should Worry About

The world is often a better a place than we think, and our primal instincts are typically to blame for our pessimistic moods and our attraction to clickbait news headlines. Now this isn’t one of those the-world-is-actually- great articles. If you want that, then I definitely

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recommend reading “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World - and Why Things Are Better Than You Think” by Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, and Ola Rosling. This article is about the five global risks (according to the late Hans Rosling) which we should definitely be worrying about.

If you haven’t read it yet I recommend you do, the following is an extract from the book:

I do not deny that there are pressing global risks we need to address. I am not an optimist painting the world in pink. I don’t get calm by looking away from problems. The five that concern me most are the risks of global pandemic, financial collapse, world war, climate change, and extreme poverty. Why is it these problems that cause me most concern? Because they are quite likely to happen: the first three have all happened before and the other two are happening now; and because each has the potential to cause mass suffering either directly or indirectly by pausing human progress for many years or decades. If we fail here, nothing else will work. These are mega killers that we must avoid, if at all possible, by acting collaboratively and step-by-step.

(There is a sixth candidate for this list. It is the unknown risk. It is the probability that something we have not yet even thought of will cause terrible suffering and devastation. That is a sobering thought. While it is truly pointless worrying about something unknown that we can do nothing about, we must also stay curious and alert to new risks, so that we can respond to them.)

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Knowing that some things are enormously important is, for me, relaxing. These five big risks are where we must direct our energy. These risks need to be approached with cool heads and robust, independent data. These risks require global collaboration and global resourcing. These risks should be approached through baby steps and constant evaluation, not through drastic actions.