How to prevent the next global crisis

March 19, 2010: 3:00 AM ET

The 5 traits that connect the world's biggest threats—and what we must do to stop future ones.

by Larry Brilliant, Skoll Global Threats Fund

San Francisco recently marked the Chinese New Year, a big event here with a downtown parade, fireworks and plenty of celebration. We moved from the year of the Ox to the year of the Tiger. Perfect. 2009 saw a certain ox-like obstinacy -- stunned by the economic downturn, people, governments and economies plodded along, keeping their heads down. 2010, however, is eminently Tigerish. We face many tremendously complicated issues this year. If tigers were global threats, this year we have many by the tail.

I sit on a committee on catastrophic risks for the World Economic Forum and co-chair a national committee on biological risks established by presidential directive. I also head up a new organization, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, which focuses on threats that -- if left unchecked -- might bring the world to its knees.

Skoll Global Threats Fund is brand new -- only half a year since Jeff Skoll started this new entity -- and we are setting about trying to find ways to help mitigate the risks from climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear proliferation and conflict in the Middle East.

There are some common denominators these threats share, which are for the most part also common to other grave global problems, like the financial system meltdown, global governance failures, and disruptions of global trade that our WEF committee deals with. And for many of these factors, the year of the Tiger is a turning point, a crossroads. Here are five common denominators: More

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