List of the most urgent global issues

This page shows a rough attempt to quantitatively compare global problems using our framework. To see our all things considered views on which world problems most urgently need more people to work on them, go here.

Which global issues should you work on to have the greatest impact?

We’ve been working on this question for the last eight years, drawing together research from the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute; the Open Philanthropy Project (a foundation with billions of dollars of committed funds); the Copenhagen Consensus Center (a major think tank); and other groups.

Using this research, we created a framework and used it to rate and make a list of global issues.

This led to some surprising results – artificial intelligence ranks as more pressing than global health.

This is because the most urgent problems are not only big, they’re also neglected and solvable – the fewer people working on a problem, the easier it is to make a big contribution. An issue can be big but comparatively well-known and crowded, like climate change, or it can be small but neglected, like land use zoning reform, and therefore also worth considering.

If you want to get the full story, this article explains how we came to focus on neglected catastrophic risks, and this article explains how our broad views have changed over time. But for now, here’s the current list. It’s still very much a work in progress, and we expect it to change over the coming years.

The list of global issues

Please take these scores with a big pinch of salt. Some of the scores were last updated in 2016. We think some of them could easily be wrong by a couple of points, and we think the scores may be too spread out.

ProblemRecommendationScale(?)Neglect-
edness(?)
Solvability(?)Total Score (?)
Risks from artificial intelligenceRecommended158427
Promoting effective altruismRecommended139426
Global priorities researchRecommended139426
Improving institutional decision-makingRecommended137424
Factory farmingSometimes recommended136423
BiosecuritySometimes recommended154423
Nuclear securitySometimes recommended155323
Developing world healthSometimes recommended132621
Climate change (extreme risks)Sometimes recommended142420
Land use reformSometimes recommended97420
Smoking in the developing worldSometimes recommended125320

Click through to see our reasoning for each problem.

One point higher means the problem is roughly three times as pressing, though this is highly approximate. See the full detail on how we did the ratings.

This tool re-ranks the list based on your answers to a couple of key questions.

Which global issue should you work on?

To see our all things considered views on which world problems most urgently need more people to work on them, go here.

You can also read more about the arguments for and against focusing on catastrophic risks here.

Read nextHow can you make the greatest contribution to solving a problem?

Learn about the four types of high impact career in the next part of our career guide.

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