World facing polycrisis, but climate still seen as biggest threat – AXA

Insurance giant AXA has warned the world is in the grip of a polycrisis and while the climate crisis is still the biggest issue for risk mangers the threats from technology, geopolitical risk and cyber-attacks are increasing.

AXA today published the tenth edition of its Future Risks Report, with group CEO Thomas Buberl, saying the world needs to demonstrate “our collective ability to find appropriate and sustainable solutions”.

The report was carried out among 3,500 experts in 50 countries and a representative sample of 20,000 members of the general population in 15 countries, with the study measures and ranks their perception of evolving and rising risks. Since 2020, the report has been produced in partnership with the IPSOS polling institute, then analysed by the AXA Group’s in-house team of experts.

This year, the study highlights the concept of polycrisis. Geopolitical tensions, the exponential emergence of new technologies (such as generative AI), or the acceleration of global warming, no longer follow one another but are happening at the same time.

The 2023 edition of the Future Risks Report concluded:

  • The risks associated with artificial intelligence and big data show the greatest increase in the experts’ rankings, rising from 14th place in 2022 to 4th place in 2023. Most of the experts (64%) and the public (70%) even believe that AI research should be halted.
  • For the sixth year running, cybersecurity risks are on the experts’ podium. For the first time, they have also made it into the Top 3 for the general population. The “cyber-war” motif was included in the list enabling the experts to justify their choice, closely linking this subject to that of geopolitical instability, in 3rd position this year.
  • As was the case last year, global warming is in 1st place among both experts and the public. But, for the first time, this risk is ranked first in every region of the world, including by the public, without exception.
  • The feeling of vulnerability remains at a high level. 84% of experts feel more vulnerable than they did five years ago at national levels (compared with 76% in 2020), and 73% at local levels (compared with 64% in 2020). This trend is also apparent in the general population, where feelings of vulnerability have increased by 7% in three years at both national and local levels.

AXA added however, the trust in various players to limit the consequences of new global crises is on the rise. In first place, scientists are trusted by 84% of experts and 70% of the general population. The level of confidence in companies is growing among both experts (72%, up 8% in one year) and the general population (49%, up 4%).

At the same time, 93% of experts and 74% of the general population believe that the role of insurers in limiting the impact of future risks is important or very important (compared with 89% and 69% last year).

“This tenth edition of the Future Risks Report highlights a world in polycrisis,” Buberl explained. “The last three years have been impacted by the global pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the worsening consequences of global warming… Now we have to add rising risks linked to artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, as well as an increasingly unstable geopolitical framework.

“This accentuates the feeling of vulnerability of the general population, but also of the experts, in the face of these threats. Despite the scale of the challenges, we do not want to see the future as a risk. On the contrary, we need to demonstrate our collective ability to find appropriate and sustainable solutions. As an insurer, our role is to propose solutions, and we are fully mobilised to fulfil it.”

The risks associated with artificial intelligence and big data show the greatest increase in the experts’ rankings, rising from 14th place in 2022 to 4th place in 2023.