SOLAR STORMS, ORBITAL DEBRIS, PANDEMICS: Here Are The Unusual Risks You Should Actually Be Worried About This Year

sun solar flair nasa

Photo: NASA via Flickr

Solar flares are back in the headlines again. This phenomenon from the sun has potentially devastating effects on earth’s power grids and communications networks.Risk management is a part of our everyday lives.  Everyone knows to look both ways before crossing the street. Most also know to diversify their investment portfolios to limit the impact of a stock market crash.

But, what about the less obvious risks like solar flares and nuclear winters.

The World Economic Forum recently published its list of 50 Global Risks of 2012.  This list includes many well-known risks like fiscal imbalances, carbon emissions, and income disparity.

But it also includes unusual ones that seem to come right out of science fiction.

What follows is a list of these odd risks that we should be worried about.  They’re also risks that seriously concern 469 experts and industry leaders surveyed by the World Economic Forum.

Proliferation of orbital debris

Rapidly accumulating debris in high-traffic geocentric orbits jeopardizes critical satellite infrastructure.

Source: World Economic Forum

Vulnerability to pandemics

Inadequate disease surveillance systems, failed international coordination and the lack of vaccine production capacity.

Source: World Economic Forum

Unprecedented geophysical destruction

Geophysical disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic activity, of unparalleled magnitude or unforeseen frequency, that overwhelm existing precautions.

Source: World Economic Forum

Entrenched organised crime

Highly organised, disciplined, and deep-rooted global networks committing criminal offences.

Source: World Economic Forum

Unintended consequences of nanotechnology

The manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular level raises concerns on nanomaterial toxicity.

Source: World Economic Forum

Militarization of space

Targeting of commercial, civil and military space assets and related ground systems as core to defence strategy.

Source: World Economic Forum

Massive incidence of data fraud or theft

Criminal or wrongful exploitation of private data on an unprecedented scale.

Source: World Economic Forum

Unintended consequences of new life science technologies

Advances in genetics and synthetic biology produce unintended consequences, mishaps, or are used as weapons.

Source: World Economic Forum

Unintended consequences of climate change mitigation

Attempts at geoengineering or renewable energy development result in new complex challenges.

Source: World Economic Forum

Unmanaged migration

Mass migration driven by resource scarcity, environmental degradation and lack of opportunity, security or social stability.

Source: World Economic Forum

Vulnerability to geomagnetic storms

Critical communication and navigation systems disabled by effects from colossal solar flares.

Source: World Economic Forum

Rising rates of chronic disease

Increasing burden of illness and long-term costs of treatment threaten recent societal gains in life expectancy and quality.

Source: World Economic Forum

Rising religious fanaticism

Uncompromising sectarian views that polarize societies and exacerbate regional tensions.

Source: World Economic Forum

Persistent extreme weather

Increasing damage linked to greater concentration of property in risk zones, urbanization or increased frequency of extreme weather events.

Source: World Economic Forum

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