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After the chaos of 2020, you'd be forgiven for thinking the worst-case scenario that could happen on this planet had already unfolded.
But Twitter was sent into meltdown yesterday as the PM's former top-aide Dominic Cummings said the government's plan to protect against deadly solar flares wiping out technology was "absolutely hopeless".
The very idea that storms from space are a valid concern sparked disbelief.
One person joked: "There should be a Ministry of Mad S**t That Might Never Happen (But If It Does We're Screwed)”.
The Daily Star has taken a look at the full 2020 National Risk Register and picked out the weirdest and scariest risks that top UK officials are currently planning for — let's hope they never come to pass.
Deadly space weather
When you think of weather disruption, your mind probably goes to trains stopped by snowy sludge – not deadly energy hurtling out from the sun towards the Earth.
But this is a risk the UK is actually preparing for. The government says there are three main dangers coming from space – solar flares, energetic particles, and mass ejections.
They can cause vicious radiation, the breaking of electronics, and even all the satellites in space becoming defunct.
NASA says a space storm narrowly missed the Earth in 2012.
Fake news killing democracy
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What starts with a dodgy claim doing the rounds on WhatsApp can end in something a lot more sinister.
The government’s risk assessment has plans in place to control the increasing amounts of fake news.
Conspiracy theories have shot up since the beginning of the pandemic, including wacky lies about 5G towers starting the pandemic.
As well as “real-world harms” such as new technology being destroyed, the report worries about “reduced trust in institutions, experts, sources of accurate information or democracy itself”.
Real life ‘Line of Duty’
When AC-12 aren’t around to catch the top corrupt crooks, what happens to the most two-faced of criminals?
Officials say they need to cut out “Serious Organised Crime” and have a risk strategy plan in place.
The report says risks of corruption include “drugs and terrorism that threaten the safety and security of citizens”.
It’s preparing for high-level dodgy dealing in high-risk sectors in the UK.
Massive cyber breach
From finance records to racy pics and company data, there’s information all over the internet that shouldn’t be public.
But as we rely on the web more and more, hackers are getting increasingly sophisticated – there are even guides which teach others how to be malicious online.
The report says this is a massive risk for the future and worryingly says: “There is a race to ensure systems and networks are protected before malicious actors can identify weaknesses and exploit them.”
Let’s hope we win that race.
Widespread public disorder and rioting
The UK has seen its fair share of riots. In 2010, a tuition fees protest spiraled into violence and improvised missiles were used against police.
A year later, a protest in Tottenham over the cops shooting Mark Duggan led to more chaos which spread across cities including London and Manchester.
But the risk assessment has been preparing for all scenarios, including where rioting is much bigger and widespread.
Police are constantly monitoring the risk of dangerous disorder and since 2011 the plan has had “significant” work in case of rampage on the streets.
A meteor hitting the Earth
A six-mile-wide asteroid decimated the Earth 66 million years ago, ending the reign of the dinosaur.
The UK is on a constant look-out for the danger arising again, with the UK Fire Ball Alliance working with top British unis to monitor incoming meteors, reports Imperial College London.
NASA has long had plans for what to do if any other objects come hurtling towards life on the planet.
The surveillance will help them see it coming as they say they need 10 years notice to try and turn away a killer asteroid.
The UK’s electricity suddenly turning off
Imagine the chaotic scenes if the UK’s electricity grid and power went down.
There would be no lights, no TV, and you couldn’t even charge your phone – and that’s before you think about the disaster for hospitals.
In August 2019, power disruption affected more than one million people across the UK after severe weather.
But the government has emergency plans in place ready for the havoc if this struck on a larger scale – including downstream gas and communicating what's going on with the public.
Strikes breaking out across the nation
There’s been lots of industrial action in the 21st century so far, from fuel tank drivers to firefighters and London Underground staff.
But the UK has a plan for the risk of big strikes in the future in order to avoid "significant disruption".
It’s got contingencies in place where workers are swapped around, such as the armed forces driving around petrol and consultants replacing junior doctors.
There’s also a team that monitors if strikes might be about to happen and may try to crush them before they start.
Bio-terrorists using nuclear weapons and anthrax
Evil terrorists and criminals “remain interested” in chemical and nuclear attack methods, the government says.
It is preparing for “catastrophic blast damage, widespread infection, or contamination of people” and working hard to stop it from happening.
In the event that this does happen, there are expert specialists who have been trained to operate in the environments, and the report says preparations for a deadly event are regularly updated and tested.
- In the News
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