As preppers, we try to be prepared for anything, from minor to major disasters. This article looks at the UK’s greatest threats in 2023, their probability and the effect that they could have. The majority also applies worldwide, with many of the threats being global rather than just UK specific.
A threat is not the same as a prediction. There are 15 threats on this list, but that does not mean that we expect them to happen in 2023. Instead, it is a relative comparison of those threats that are most likely to happen along with the impact that each could have.
Ranking The UK’s Greatest Threats In 2023
We took a number of threats that could affect the UK and scored them for probability and impact.
We scored the probability of an event happening in the next 5 years by looking at previous events, published risk reports and opinions of experts. A higher probability means more chance of the event happening in, or affecting, the UK.
The impact scores are based on the effect each event would have on the majority of the UK. A higher impact means that the UK (and in some cases the whole world) will be severely affected. A lower impact means that the majority of the UK will still experience some effects. The effects of lower impact events, however, will not be as disruptive, or the effect of the event more localised.
The image below shows each threat with probability and impact. Those at the top right are the greatest threats as they have very high probability and impact.
The UK’s Greatest Threats In 2023 Are…
The combination of the probability and impact of an event gives a threat level. The events with the highest probability and impact are the greatest threats. The UK’s greatest threats in 2023 are:
- Climate change
- Grid down
- Antimicrobial resistance
- Nuclear Attack
- Cyber Attack
- Financial Collapse
- War In Europe
- Extreme weather
- Collapse of Society
- Terrorist Attack
- Asteroid Impact
- Volcanic eruption
- Nuclear Accident
Climate change is the greatest threat to human civilisation. We are already seeing the effects of climate change now, with more heatwaves and changing weather patterns. 2022 was the fifth warmest year on record, and temperature records were broken in many countries.
In less than 30 years from now, the world’s climate will have changed dramatically. Most of earth’s land will experience hotter temperatures and dryer weather. Dangerous heatwaves, and long droughts will be common in many places. Parts of the world will have become uninhabitable, and there will be mass migrations. Many people will die due of starvation or thirst. Read more about preparing for climate change.
Grid down means the long-term or permanent failure of the power grid. The power grid is more fragile than many people realise, and could easily fail or be destroyed. There are many potential causes for power grid failure. These include cyber attacks and Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) caused by a nuclear explosion or a solar flare.
A solar flare could easily destroy power grids and electrical equipment around the world. In 2012, a solar flare nearly did exactly that; it hit the earth’s orbit but luckily the earth was a few days away from that part of the orbit at the time. Our society has come to rely on easily available power. When the grid goes down, it is very likely that the collapse of society will follow rapidly. Our grid down article has plenty more information.
Antimicrobial resistance is when disease causing microbes change over time and become resistant to medication. This means that antimicrobial medicines become ineffective against infections. Infections then become very difficult or even impossible to treat. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest global health threats.
The threat of a nuclear attack has increased yet further since we wrote the previous version of this article in 2022. A nuclear attack could be a nuclear was, or a terrorist organisation that has accessed nuclear weapons. The nuclear threat was the main reason that the doomsday clock was moved to 90 seconds to midnight early in 2023. The threat of nuclear war has remained high throughout 2022. The Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened nuclear attacks against NATO’s response to a Russian invasion of Ukraine. He has since highlighted Russia’s nuclear capabilities several times.
A nuclear attack will cause many deaths and much destruction worldwide. If you are outside the immediate blast radius and you know what to do, you have a good chance of surviving a nuclear bomb explosion.
Cyber attacks are happening all the time, with the frequency of attacks increasing each year. There have been recent successful cyber attacks against infrastructure in the USA. There are also ongoing cyber attacks against government and infrastructure in Ukraine.
A successful cyber attack against parts of our infrastructure, for example banking or the power grid, could have a huge impact on the majority of the UK population. Prepping for a cyber attack will help you survive the consequences of a major cyber attack.
The Covid-19 pandemic showed us how susceptible the world is to a new virus. Although the Covid-19 pandemic was devastating, a new pandemic with a virus that has a higher death rate could wipe out huge numbers of the population of the world.
Recent months have seen the spread of avian flu around the world, and evidence has now been found of its transmission to mammals. Although this strain of avian flu has not become a pandemic in humans, the risk of a disease becoming a pandemic remains very high.
Financial conditions have been increasingly difficult throughout 2022, in particular with energy and food prices increasing. The risk of a financial collapse remains high in 2023. Even if there is no financial collapse, the cost of living crisis is a major risk to many people.
The worst financial collapse the world has seen was the Great Depression of the 1930s. It started with the Wall Street crash of 1929, and was made worse by US government mismanagement through the 1930s. Although this was centred in the USA, it had significant effects around the world. A financial collapse could see huge number of job losses. This would then lead to homelessness and starvation as people struggle to earn any money.
War In Europe
Various sources have claimed that the threat of war across Europe is at its highest since the cold war ended. Russia invaded Ukraine early in 2022, and so war in Europe is now reality rather than threat. Russia continues to threaten NATO countries for their support of Ukraine, with the risk of war spreading further across Europe. It is unlikely that physical warfare would take place in the UK, however any war in Europe has a wide ranging effect.
War in any parts of Europe have a significant impact on supply chains. A breakdown in relations between Russia and NATO has affected natural gas supplies, with a knock on impact on energy costs.
Another element of modern warfare is cyber attacks. The risk of cyber attack is included as one of the UK’s greatest threats in 2023. War between Russia and NATO nations could result in Russian cyber attacks against infrastructure or government.
Extreme weather includes storms, heatwaves, extreme cold and snow, and very heavy rainfall. The number of extreme weather events that we experience is increasing, in particular heatwaves and very heavy rain storms. The effects of extreme weather may be relatively localised, or may affect large areas of the UK at once. One of the main effects of extreme weather that we see in the UK is flooding. Flooding is becoming more and more common in the UK. As the climate changes, we can also expect to see more heatwaves.
Collapse of Society
The collapse of society could be a symptom of some of the other risks. For example, if the power grid is destroyed, it may lead eventually to the collapse of society. It could also be an event in itself. There is increasing civil unrest around the world, and the UK is a very divided country. Issues like Brexit, management of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the current cost of living crisis have further increased divides within the UK. If the divides and civil unrest continue to develop, it will eventually reach a point where it causes the collapse of our society.
Currently the UK national terrorist attack threat level is SUBSTANTIAL. That means that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) considers a terrorist attack to be likely. A non-nuclear terrorist attack may not have as much of an impact as a nuclear attack. There can, however, still be very wide ranging consequences affecting large numbers of people, as well as the obvious impact on those directly affected. Find out how to prepare for and stay safe during a terrorist attack.
The likelihood of an asteroid impact big enough to cause widespread damage is small. However, the potential destruction caused by a large asteroid hitting a populated area is significant. NASA estimates that an asteroid that could cause a large amount of damage to a localised area hits the earth approximately once every 2,000 years.
This might seem like a strange threat to include on a list of UK threats, as there are no active volcanoes in the UK. The threats to the UK are actually airborne ash and gas from eruption of a volcano elsewhere. In 2010, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, spewing huge amounts of ash and gas into the atmosphere. This grounded aircraft over the majority of Europe as the volcanic ash cloud would have damaged the aircraft engines. As well as the disruption, a large volcanic ash cloud could cause climate changes in the UK, lasting over years.
The probability of a nuclear accident is low. However if one were to occur it could result in a release of nuclear material to the environment. The effect of this could be similar to nuclear fallout. Radioactive material would gradually fall to earth over time and over a large area.
Although wildfires are usually seen as a problem affecting other countries more than the UK, we are seeing moorland and forest fires more frequently. This trend will continue because summers are becoming warmer and drier. The effects of fires are destruction of property and injury or death. They also have the potential to impact our infrastructure and supply chains depending on the locations affected.
Wildfires in the UK are usually contained before they cause threats to homes, or spread to very large areas. There is potential for the impact from wildfires to become larger as the climate becomes warmer and dryer.
The UK’s Greatest Threats In 2023 And Your Greatest Threats
These are the UK’s greatest threats in 2023. The start of another year is always a good time to think about the greatest threats to you. Take the opportunity to consider whether there are threats specific to the area you live. If you live on a flood plain, for example, flooding will be one of the greatest threats to you. Threats change all the time, with events around the world affecting the UK. It is worth checking your threats and updating your plans frequently.
The threats covered in this article are all major events that would have a nationwide or even global impact. Remember that threats that you need to prepare for include many smaller scale events that may have a very localised impact. Check out all our disaster scenarios articles for more information and ideas for your prepping.
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