Climate and cyber risk among consumers' top concerns – AXA

Climate risk, cybersecurity and pandemics are some of the top challenges cited by everyday consumers, according to AXA's latest Future Risks Report

Risks relating to artificial intelligence (AI) and data appear among the main challenges facing society for the first time, suggesting a growing cognisance among experts and members of the public about their potential dangers and pitfalls.

As part of its annual Future Risks Report, insurance giant AXA has surveyed more than 3,000 experts and nearly 20,000 members of the public from 15 different countries.

Some topics – like climate change, cybersecurity risk and energy security – feature highly in the threats most cited by experts and ordinary people alike. Some risks, like terrorism and infectious disease, understandably feature more prominently in the top 10 risks cited by members of the public.

Meanwhile, the 3,000 experts surveyed have cited risks relating to AI and big data as the fourth most pressing concern facing the industry, marking the first time it has appeared on AXA’s annual rankings. The development shows how emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, are finding prominence within society – often more quickly than governments and regulators are prepared for.

Climate change secures rare consensus as #1 risk

Despite the differences in opinion, there is one thing that unites virtually everybody that AXA surveyed: both experts and laymen alike said that climate change was the biggest risk facing society in every geography where AXA conducted its research.

When the insurance giant asked people how we could collectively combat these challenges, three-quarters of experts agreed with the idea that risks are becoming more interconnected. According to George Stansfield, AXA Group Deputy CEO & General Secretary, the solution is global, holistic solutions rather than specific, local ones.

“Both experts and the public favour global-level solutions to tackle future risks,” Stansfield says. “Providing efficient transversal solutions requires cooperation and global commitments, which can only be achieved through proactive engagement and collaboration with our key stakeholders. The results of this year’s survey are encouraging in this respect, even recognising that there is still much more to do going forward.”

Top risks facing the planet, according to AXA's surveyed experts.

Thomas Buberl, CEO of AXA, summarises the report’s findings: “For a decade, AXA’s Future Risks Report has tracked the changing perceptions of experts and the general public regarding the vulnerabilities to which our societies are exposed.

“This year, more than ever, our survey results map out the contours of a world in ‘polycrisis’ where risks are now interconnected. Digital transformation, global warming and geopolitical fractures are combining to create a permanent process of mutation in our economies and societies. Against this background, the concept of risk takes on a new dimension.

Cyber risk ‘a credible weapon on the geopolitical chessboard’

“This year’s report offers us a number of lessons. Having topped the experts’ rankings since 2015, climate change becomes for the first time the public’s top risk across all geographies surveyed. Extreme weather events, droughts, fires and biodiversity loss – the increasingly tangible aspects of climate change underline the urgent need for concrete action. AXA decided at a very early stage to take a frontline role in this battle.

“A top-three threat since 2018, cyber risks return to second place. A direct consequence of the digital revolution and its impact on our lifestyles, it has also become a credible ‘weapon of war’ on the geopolitical chessboard, and it remains closely linked to geopolitical risks, in third place this year.

“This year’s report is also marked by a meteoric rise in risks linked to artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. They jump from 14th to 4th in the experts’ rankings – hardly surprising, given the spotlight on generative AI and ChatGPT. However, AI risks remain low in the public’s rankings, particularly in Europe, which could also be seen as a vector of progress.”

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