“For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains” (Isaiah 22:5).
First published in 2005 by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Global Risks report is recognized as one of the world’s leading publications on the subject. The report is used as a tool by business, government and civil society to help understand future challenges and interconnections between participants. Through an extensive interview process, the compilers project the 10-year potential negative impact of 31 risks in five categories — economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological — across entire countries and industries. As with all projections, the true impact may be more or less severe than expected. See the table below for the ten risks of greatest concern in 2014.
From a list of 31 risks, survey respondents were asked to identify the five they are most concerned about. Survey respondents include over 700 representatives of the World Famine Forum’s Member and Partner companies, members of the Network of Global Agenda Councils, and Global Shapers and Young Global Leaders. Conducted October, November 2013.
- Fiscal crises in key economies
- Structurally high unemployment / underemployment
- Water crises
- Severe income disparity
- Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
- Greater incidence of extreme weather events
- Global governance failure
- Food crises
- Failure of major financial mechanism / institution
- Profound political and social instability
A New Threat
Many of the top ten risks are neither new nor surprising. For example, one is the economic and social impact of the growing gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest citizens of the world. Next was the concern over the potential cost of damage from typhoons, tsunamis and other extreme weather events. However, one significant growing risk not in the top ten stood out: the technological risk shown in 2013 by the proliferation of cyber-attacks against Target, Adobe, JPMorgan Chase and others, combined with the implications of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) tapping of Google, Apple and Microsoft data centers. Notable weakness of Internet encryption communication protocol propelled technological risk to one of the major concerns, although not into the top ten.
“Trust in the Internet is declining as a result of data misuse, hacking and privacy intrusion,” said Axel P. Lehmann, chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group. Lehmann added that it is not just a technical business problem but one that has the potential to impact people everywhere. “Some reports indicate that 70% of (inter) net users have been attacked at some point and it can take some companies 230 days to realize they have even been attacked.”
The Global Risks report included an analysis of what it terms “cybergeddon” due to the increased number of world citizens connecting online.
Other Top Risks
The report verifies that today’s world has become more unpredictable. The era dominated by “super-powers” has given way to regional, multi-polar conflicts. More clashes in the world today occur over ethnic and economic interests than pure military conquest. Ukraine has been torn apart by such conflict while the rest of the world gropes to identify a role in the whole affair. Fed by all-time high unemployment of 10.3 percent in 2009, chronic under-employment and notable youth unemployment, and an ability to organize through online efforts, Ukraine follows the world-changing examples of the Arab Spring as examples of threats to world stability.
As if this were not enough, a fiscal crisis caused by global government over-indebtedness was identified as the single most impactful risk that could devastate society in the decade ahead. All 700 experts — an impressive list of representatives from Marsh McLennan, Swiss Re, Oxford and Singapore Universities and the US Wharton Risk Management School — identified financial failure as their major fear. Jennifer Blanke, chief economist at the WEF, concluded, “Each risk considered in this report holds the potential for failure on a global scale. It is the interconnected nature of these risks that makes their negative implications so pronounced.”
Bible prophecy supports the idea belief that since 1914 the world has entered “a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation” (Daniel 12:1, NAS). Nation states are losing relevancy as the world has transformed into a true global network. Technology allows people and markets to interact continuously and instantaneously. Information and funds flow rapidly and globally. Consequently, the negative impact of risk grows exponentially. This is not unexpected nor without purpose. Jehovah is preparing for divine intervention at a point in the not-too-distant future. The prophet Zephaniah says of our day, “My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them mine indignation, all the glow of mine anger” (Zephaniah 3:8, Rotherham Translation). The nations and kingdoms are gathered and assembled in order to be witness to and to be replaced by God’s intervention in earth’s affairs.
“The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: Jehovah of hosts mustereth the host of the battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even Jehovah, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. Howl ye; for the Day of Jehovah is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty” (Isaiah 13:4-6). Every phase of the “last days” distress upon nations has to do with the overthrow of Satan’s rulership.
The writers of secular history refer to World War I as “the beginning” of all the troubles that have enveloped mankind since that time, and World War II as a resumption of hostilities that had ceased for a while. All of this is to take place in “that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14), and as a result, the whole fabric of civilization has been weakened.
The Apostle Paul, in his description says that “sudden destruction” shall come “as travail upon a woman with child” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Travail comes in spasms with periods of comparative easement between the pains. This has been the pattern of events since the end of the “times of the Gentiles” in 1914.
Scriptures tell us that at the time of the end there will be “men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world” (Luke 21:26 NAS). The Greek word translated “world” means “the earth, or land, as distinct from the water.” It is the place where people dwell. People will be at a loss for a way out. “The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind” (Isaiah 17:13).
That storm will be great. It will totally level human society (Isaiah 40:4). To what extent the current global risks play a role in this leveling remains to be seen. However, after the storm will be calm. There will be a “still small voice” (1Kings 19:12). This will be the voice of God saying, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39). Then will come the welcome words, “Stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah” (Exodus 14:13). Divine intervention will eradicate the risks that brought this present evil world to an end and bring genuine peace to a trouble-weary world.
Let us pray for that time to come rapidly!