Saturday, January 28, 2006

Study: Bird Flu Biggest Current Worry

Some snippets from a summary article on the "Global Risks 2006" report ...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060126/ap_on_re_eu/world_forum_global_risks_1

By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer Thu Jan 26, 5:43 PM ET

DAVOS, Switzerland - The global threat that most preoccupies the world's business leaders is the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, according to a study released Thursday at the
World Economic Forum.

Other global risks, such as terrorist attacks and the possibility of an even bigger oil price shock, were deemed just as dangerous, but less likely to happen in the coming year, said the "Global Risks 2006" report ...

... "If the avian flu H5N1 virus mutates to enable human-to-human transmission, it may disrupt our global society and economy in an unprecedented way," said the 22-page risk study, which was released by a panel of companies and experts.

While the report predicted a number of small-scale terrorist attacks in 2006, it said large-scale simultaneous attacks were less likely, primarily because the capability of terrorists to coordinate their activities had diminished. ...

... "Terrorist attacks involving aircraft and high explosives have already had a massive global impact," the study said, but added, "The capacity of terrorist organizations to act globally in a coordinated way has diminished."

The risk of a major attack will rise in coming years, however, it said.

The report warned of other possible severe shocks, such as an oil price spike to $100 a barrel or an earthquake hitting Tokyo, but said those risks had a low likelihood of occurring.

"The world suffered an oil-price spike above $70 in 2005," the study said. "The world's reliance on hydrocarbons and growing concerns about the geopolitics of supply mean that oil prices will inevitably be an issue of concern in 2006 and beyond."

But even if oil prices should rise above $100, it is "relatively unlikely" that they would remain so high for an extended period, it said. ...

... The Forum study was based primarily on contributions from Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., Merrill Lynch and Swiss Reinsurance Co. and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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