Perceived risk is a notoriously tricky area. If risk is a construct, then everyone’s perception of risk has potential to differ.
Last week, business and political leaders met in Davos for the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering. Ahead of that, WEF released their Annual Global Risks Report which ranks global risks in terms of likelihood and impact.
We were curious to see how these risks were being talked about in the world of online and social media and how perceptions of what was important or worrying might differ from the Davos elites.
We used our risk intelligence platform, MeaningMine, to analyse risk related discussions about the self-identified WEF risk topics over the last 6 months. Here’s what we found.
While WEF ranked terrorist attacks 4th in Likelihood and 8th for Impact, online media placed it 1st and social media placed it 2nd. Prominent postings included how Pakistan has become a bastion for terrorism and a global threat. Among countries, the USA was cited most frequently, with US intelligence officials saying the threat of terrorist attacks will dominate intelligence efforts for the next five years, with a focus on defeating ISIS and related terrorists in Europe. Interestingly, the Pentagon has warned that climate change will act as a “threat multiplier” and foster terrorism.
While Infectious Diseases did not make WEF’s top 10 lists, it ranked 2nd in online media and 1st in social media. Top postings included the UN global gathering on antimicrobial resistance, which was only the fourth time in history that heads of state have met to discuss a health issue. The United Nations described it as “the greatest and most urgent global risk.” With a similar focus, Pharma companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer recently participated at the Superbugs & Superdrugs USA summit to discuss the latest developments and breakthroughs.
Climate change issues featured prominently in the WEF report in relation to extreme weather events, water crises and natural disasters. Meanwhile, the explicit failure to mitigate climate change was only 5th on WEF’s list in terms of Impact. In both online and social media, climate change ranked 3rd. According to Circle of Blue, investor balance sheets may be off by billions as water hungry 20th-century technology meets the realities of a water-scarce 21st century. Examples of enormous financial losses, largely driven by drought and flooding, are emerging across numerous sectors and insurance company Munich Re announced that climate-caused natural disasters resulted in $175 billion in damage in 2016, the highest in four years. Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmental activist, who has spent more than $140 million to fight climate change, has pledged to fight Donald Trump’s pro-drilling and anti-regulation agenda by “engag[ing] voters and citizens to fight back.”