Computer Crime Research Center


World Economic Forum: Extreme weather, AI, cybercrime greatest global risks in 2024

Date: January 10, 2024
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: A.L. Lee

Jan. 10 (UPI) -- World nations face escalating threats in the coming year from extreme weather, artificial intelligence, and geopolitical tumult, while more proactive measures are needed to navigate an increasingly complex landscape of emerging risks, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum.

The Switzerland-based organization, which brings together influential leaders from business, politics, academia and other sectors to discuss global economic issues, on Wednesday published its Global Risks Report for 2024, highlighting cybercrime, AI, climate change and weather-related disasters as the greatest risks to the international community in 2024 and beyond.

The report underscores the impact of evolving "structural forces" that contribute to global instability, while warning that "the fallout is already affecting billions of lives" through extreme weather, AI-generated misinformation, higher cost-of-living, cyberattacks and heightened political divisions.

The report emphasized that ongoing conflicts around the world were hampering efforts to mitigate climate change as high interest rates, increasing debt, and cyberthreats made nations more susceptible to economic harm or collapse.

The report identifies the top four long-term global risks as extreme weather, climate disruptions, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem collapse.

The report offers a small glimmer of hope, saying the "worst outcomes are not inevitable."

Gill Einhorn, who heads up climate and nature initiatives for the World Economic Forum, highlighted the importance of realizing the big risks while taking action to avoid worst-case scenarios.

"What is needed is a mindset that recognizes the full scale of the risk, while maintaining the optimism that we can and will respond in a way to avoid and mitigate the worst risks from occurring," she said.

The report calls for faster emissions reduction and more meaningful policy actions to accelerate the clean energy transition around the world.

"Reducing human emissions is the swiftest lever to postpone or avoid critical changes to Earth systems," the report said, adding that cutting down on air pollution "will give our civilization time to develop appropriate adaptation and resilience strategies."

The report emphasizes that mankind must adapt to the coming environmental changes, such as a rise in sea levels, while also creating a network of connected solutions to protect people, landscapes, crops and property from increased climate threats.

The analysis highlights solutions for future environmental challenges, like the expertise of African farmers in managing droughts and floods to improve European crop resilience. Grassroots efforts in relocating Arctic communities facing climate threats have also provided a blueprint for effective policies in handling forced migration due to rising sea levels.

Researchers also briefly discussed solutions involving biomimicry, an approach that seeks to imitate or draw inspiration from nature's forms, to solve human problems or create more sustainable technologies, saying: "Much can be learned from nature's forms, processes and ecosystems that have survived five previous mass extinctions to create more regenerative designs."

"We must recognize the full scale of the risk, but maintain the optimism that we can and will respond in a way to avoid and mitigate the worst risks from occurring," researchers declare in the report. "We are responsible for the potential 6th Mass Extinction -- but are also uniquely positioned to respond to avert its worst consequences."

The report also highlights cybersecurity and cybercrime trends, which were being driven by major technological developments in recent years, with wealthy nations benefiting from greater cybersecurity while many poor nations were struggling to thwart cyberattacks.

As criminals embrace advanced technologies, the public and private sectors face new challenges in acquiring the necessary resources to defend against or recover from cyberattacks.

However, addressing this threat requires investments and talent acquisition that many organizations struggle to meet, resulting in a growing cybersecurity gap that is predicted to have pronounced social consequences in 2024, particularly as cybercrime converges with violent crime, especially so in the dark underworld of human trafficking in certain parts of the world, according to the study.

The report concludes by assessing the risk of AI on national security structures while suggesting strong regulations to limit its harmful potential when wielded by malicious actors.

The report praises efforts such as the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of AI and Autonomy, launched in 2023, that aims to guide responsible development of military AI.

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