Crisis chart of the day: The correlation between severity and probability

By Felix Salmon
January 14, 2010
released its annual Global Risks report, which kicks off with this chart:

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The World Economic Forum has released its annual Global Risks report, which kicks off with this chart:

riskchart.tiff

There’s a key explaining what all these numbers are, ranging from 1 (food price volatility) to 36 (data fraud/loss). But the really scary thing, for me, is the pretty clear positive correlation between severity and likelihood: the trillion-dollar risks all have a significant probability of happening, with the most severe risk of all — a global asset price collapse — being associated with a probability of well over 20%.

That collapse in asset prices is #6; #7 (developed-country retrenchment from globalization) is just as severe, if not as likely. #2 is a spike in the oil price, #5 is fiscal crises, #31 is chronic diseases, and #4 is a slowing Chinese economy.

The report is being published in the run-up to the WEF’s annual meeting, in Davos, where the great and the good will try to convince themselves that they’re part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. But frankly there’s really nothing they can do about the biggest risk of all, that asset-price collapse. In fact, given how rich they are, they’re likely to bear the brunt of it themselves.

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