The world’s biggest risks in 2015

Pro-Russian separatists ride on top of a tank near the town of Krasnyi Luch in Lugansk region, eastern Ukraine, on October 28, 2014.
Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

One week ahead of its conference in Davos, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has released its list of the biggest global risks.

The report, out on Thursday, is the WEF's tenth and is based on a survey completed by nearly 900 respondents working across the world in business, government, academia and non-governmental organizations. They ranked risks in terms of both likelihood and impact.

Read on to learn about the dangers that could lie ahead.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato on January 15, 2014.

Interstate conflict

Genya Savilov | AFP | Getty Images

Following Russia's incursion into Ukraine's Crimea region last year, and the subsequent rounds of global sanctions and counter-sanctions, international conflicts that impact whole regions were named as the biggest global danger over the next decade.

"In the 25th year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, geopolitical risks are back on the agenda. The dispute over Crimea in March 2014 serves as a forceful reminder of the consequences of interstate conflicts with regional consequences that seemed long forgotten and unfathomable," said WEF in its "Global risks 2015" report.

Read More 25 years after the Berlin Wall: What's changed?

Extreme weather

Flood damage in Salina, Colo., in 2013
Joe Amon | The Denver Post | Getty Images

Extreme weather events, such as floods and storms, ranked as the second biggest threat to the world over the next 10 years, given the potential for major damage to property, infrastructure and environmental damage, as well as human loss.

In particular, WEF warned that 15 of the world's 20 megacities—those with over 10 million inhabitants—were located in coastal zones threatened by sea level rises and storm surges.

"Heat waves, extreme rainfall and drought-related shortages of water and food will increasingly test the resilience of infrastructure in these and other cities," the report said.

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Failure of national governance


The inability of countries to efficiently govern in the face of corruption, organized crime and weak rule of law was another risk for the world over the next 10 years.

"As state structures are challenged by conflict, the risk of the failure of national governance and state collapse or crisis can increase in areas where current state boundaries do not necessarily reflect popular self-identification," WEF said in the report.

"A recent example is Iraq and Syria, where ISIS has claimed control of territory and attracted 20,000 to 30,000 fighters from a near-standing start."

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High unemployment

Job seekers fill out applications during a job fair in Princeton, Illinois, Jan. 5, 2015.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

High structural unemployment or underemployment was another risk viewed as highly likely to be problematic for the world over the next decade.

"While the world has made progress in addressing and preventing financial crises, and small improvements in fiscal issues and unemployment have been achieved, the danger of complacency compared to other risks exists," said WEF.

The body warned that lower economic growth and technological change could keep unemployment at elevated levels in advanced economies until 2018.

Unemployment in the G-7 countries (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.S., the U.K. and Canada) averaged 6.2 percent last November, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and 11.5 percent in the euro zone countries.

Water crises

In terms of potential impact, the experts surveyed by WEF rated water crises as the greatest risk facing the world.

Around 700 million people in 43 countries suffer from water scarcity currently, according to the United Nations (UN). The UN forecasts that almost half the world's population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030, including between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa.

Read MoreWorld seeing 'alarming' global warming: World Bank


West Africa's Ebola epidemic has highlighted the health risks posed by rapid urbanization in developing countries, according to WEF.

"In today's hyperconnected world, it is easier for pathogens to be carried from one city to another and quickly scale up the impact of most outbreaks. The presumed introduction of the (Ebola) virus to the informal settlements of Kenema and Freetown in Sierra Leone has undoubtedly augmented its spread," the report said.

More than 20,000 cases of Ebola have been reported across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the epidemic began last year, the World Health Organization said last week.

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Weapons of mass destruction

WEF identified the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as the third-most "impactful" risk for the world until 2025.

"If these weapons were deployed, they would create an international crisis and significant destruction…This highlights the need for greater international collaboration to control the proliferation of WMD," its report said.

Countries that have WMDs include the U.S., U.K., Iran and France. WMDs can include nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological technologies.