The impact of climate change and the impending US election will be the two most important causes of travel risks in 2020, according to a risk intelligence expert.

Riskline said abnormal weather patterns caused by climate change, including heavy rainfall, floods, sever storms, prolonged heat waves and increasing global temperatures, are leading to more incidences of business and travel disruption. Australia is currently fighting widespread bush fires as temperatures soar across the continent. The firm claimed efforts to reverse the effects of climate change have been “insufficient”, with the US – the world’s second-largest carbon emitter – planning to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

Widespread political instability will also pose travel risks in the year ahead. The US is gearing up for the 2020 presidential election, which could see the end of Donald Trump’s term in office, while the UK is set to leave the European Union at the end of January. Both have given rise to political demonstrations around the world. Meanwhile, the ongoing US-China trade war could continue to cause economic disruptions.

The firm also predicts a reprisal of attacks from the weakened Islamic State in 2020 following the death of former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a US-led raid in Syria in 2019. Far-right extremists could pose a potential threat as Trump ramps up his campaign for re-election, with Riskline quoting the 2019 attack at a mosque in New Zealand and a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas as examples.

A travel risks map designed by Riskline

Riskline’s travel risk map for 2020

Meanwhile, an increasingly mobile world population coupled with the effects of climate change is making outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola, cholera, yellow fever and other mosquito-borne illnesses more frequent.

Other risks named in the list include internet outages and the increasing cost of doing business, anti-government protests such as those seen in Hong Kong, the growing Russian military presence in the Middle East, high-profile international sporting events such as the Tokyo Olympics, and a worsening water shortage, particularly in nations such as India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

Adam Schrader, director of operations at Riskline, commented: “Although predicting what will happen in 2020 is a fool’s errand in an increasingly irrational world, a careful examination of ongoing and emerging trends provides crucial information for businesses planning the year ahead. All of the predicted risks we’ve shared are equally important, but two of them in particular will underpin the most dangerous security threats in 2020: the ongoing effects of climate change and the potential final year of the Trump administration.

“In the case of the former, it will be the mostly unseen, long-term effects that are the greater danger, as droughts or floods destroy lands and livelihoods and become the catalysts for new violent conflicts and forced migration. Meanwhile, the prospect that 2020 could be the final year of the Trump presidency bodes ill for international peace. Both allies and antagonists of the United States may feel that the level of impunity they have enjoyed in foreign affairs since 2016 may be coming to an end.”

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