Analysts Say There's a 1 in 3 Chance of Another Global Catastrophe in 2020

While we're only a little more than halfway through the year, 2020 has already become one of those years that will be studied by historians and students for decades to come. Between the wildfires in Australia, a near-war between Iran and the U.S., COVID-19 and of course, protests against police brutality and systemic racism, many people are hoping to avoid another major event that would disrupt daily life over the next six months.

However, according to a report from Deutsche Bank, first reported by MarketWatch, there's a 1-in-3 chance of another "global catastrophe" unfolding over the next six months. Analysts led by Henry Allen, looked at the risks of at least four major risks to the global economy that could occur over the next decade. Those include:

  • A major influenza pandemic that kills more than 2 million people
  • Globally catastrophic volcanic eruption
  • A major solar flare
  • Global war

“There could be major power outages as electrical power grids are disrupted, which in turn would have knock-on effects throughout the economy as critical infrastructure is unable to be run properly. Lives could be lost if it impacted hospitals and medical care. Communications would be disrupted, many payment systems would be dysfunctional, and GPS [Global Positioning System] satellites would face extensive interference, to the detriment of all the individuals and industries that rely on accurate location services, not least aircraft,” the report states.

When the time frame is extended out over the next two decades, analysts found there is a 56 percent chance of one of those disasters unfolding.

One major vulnerability analysts looked at was the possibility of a major solar flare that would severely disrupt electronics hitting Earth. In September 1859, the Carrington Event saw a solar coronal mass ejection (CME) hit the Earth's magnetosphere, inducing the largest geomagnetic storm on record, wreaking havoc with the telegraph system at the time.

If a similar storm were to hit Earth today, the effects would be felt worldwide, with blackouts and damages due to extended outages of the electrical grid. In 2012, Earth had a near-miss when a solar storm ejected another CME that missed our orbit by nine days. Scientists say the odds of another major solar flare comparable the 1859 storm happening over the next decade are about 12 percent.

The risks of a major conflict have also increased with major powers stepping up to one another in recent months. In January, the U.S. and Iran narrowly came to blows after increasing military tensions in the region saw the two powers jockeying for power over the last year.

China and India - two nuclear powers - have seen their border disputes in the Gowan Valley heat up in recent days, with at least 20 Indian soldiers killed in a confrontation between the two countries on Sunday. Both countries have placed their armed forces in the region on high alert as they prepare for a possible confrontation over the area disputed by both sides.

While no one can predict the future, the odds of a major incident have only increased analysts say. Pressures brought on by things like COVID-19 can lead to fraying relationships between countries or exacerbate existing tensions, meaning the odds of another incident are increased.

Photo: Getty Images

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