The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday released a survey that named “extreme weather” and “misinformation” as the factors most likely to trigger a global crisis in 2024. The latest edition of WEF’s annual Global Risks Report said the world is “plagued by a duo of dangerous crises: climate and conflict.” The report was compiled by polling “nearly 1,500 global experts from academia, business, government, the international community and civil society.” 84 percent of those experts expected a “stormy,” “turbulent,” or “unsettled” global risk environment over the next two years, rising to 93 percent over a ten-year timeline. “Stormy,” the worst category in the WEF report, means “global catastrophic risks looming.” The WEF’s experts seemed to go back and forth about whether or not they thought climate change or disinformation was the biggest risk in the two-year window. It seemed as if they were reluctant to say anything that might diminish climate change as the greatest threat in the history of the human race, but when push came to shove, the aggregate crisis ranking scores from the 1,500 experts put “misinformation and disinformation” on top for the two-year window — probably because they expect a tsunami of what they would consider “disinformation” during the 2024 U.S. presidential election. The WEF’s caucus of experts was also worried about disinformation in British and Indian elections, given their economic importance. They probably should have pondered this weekend’s election in Taiwan, which has been the target of a massive Chinese information warfare campaign. “The report suggests that the spread of mis- and disinformation around the globe could result in civil unrest, but could also drive government-driven censorship, domestic propaganda and controls on the free flow of information,” the WEF said. For the two-year window, disinformation and extreme weather were followed by societal polarization, cyber insecurity, and interstate armed conflict — a curiously low rating for the latter, given that hot wars in Ukraine and Gaza are driving global news at the moment and the conflict in Gaza has exposed a great deal of that “social polarization” in the Number Three slot. Inflation, the top concern of American voters going into the 2024 election, chugged in at Number Seven in the two-year global risk window. The WEF’s experts could not bring themselves to express concern about the other top issue facing American and European citizens, namely massive illegal migration, but they put “involuntary migration” — refugees driven out of their homes by conflict — at Number Eight. For the ten-year window, the WEF managed to turn climate change into four separate issues and put them into the top four slots, followed by misinformation in fifth place. Sixth was “adverse outcomes of A.I. technologies,” which is arguably a subset of “misinformation and disinformation,” although employment disruptions caused by A.I. would also be a concern. “With diminishing trust, political polarization and a volatile geopolitical landscape, the potential for cooperation to tackle global risks is under pressure,” the WEF concluded. The WEF is scheduled to hold its 54th annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, from January 15 to 19.

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