As per Wikipedia, The National Intelligence Council, the NIC, is the center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking within the United States Intelligence Community. The NIC is the body that is charged by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) with synthesizing the analyzes of the entire U.S. intelligence community and producing National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs). Their latest report, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, from November of 2008, is available online and may be downloaded in PDF format.
Among the future certainties they note the following:
A global multipolar system is emerging with the rise of China, India, and others. The relative power of nonstate actors—businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and even criminal networks—also will increase.
The unprecedented shift in relative wealth and economic power roughly
from West to East now under way will continue.
The United States will remain the single most powerful country but will be less dominant.
A look at what lies ahead, according to the NIC, may provide some insight into important US foreign policy issues and as to what influences certain decisions made by our policy makers today.
Listed as a likely impacts are:
By 2025 a single "international community" composed of nation-states will no longer exist. Power will be more dispersed with the newer players bringing new rules of the game while risks will increase that the traditional Western alliances will weaken. Rather than emulating Western models of political and economic development, more countries may be attracted to China’s alternative development model.
Shrinking economic and military capabilities may force the US into a difficult set of trade-offs between domestic versus foreign policy priorities.
Important uncertainties listed in the report include those related to energy and the transition away from oil and gas, the use of "clean coal", bio-fuels and improved energy storage. Climate change is also noted as being an important uncertainty... "how quickly it occurs and the locations where its impact is most pronounced."
One point in this category which stands out is the concern over access to resources. History shows us that one of the reasons coups and regime changes, wars and military occupations have been undertaken has been access to resources. As we have seen, nationalization of a country's important resources can lead to trouble for such countries.
Descending into a world of resource nationalism increases the risk of great power confrontations.
The entire NIC report is 89 pages long.
There is another interesting look ahead with respect to energy from Shell Oil, one of the world's 4 or 5 major oil companies, Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell and Total. This is from an article in The Oil Drum from 25 January 2008, an email to Shell employees from Jeroen van der Veer, the CEO of Shell, and explicitly meant for wider distribution. It was posted on The Oil Drum by Jerome a Paris.
Jeroen writes that the long term future looks bright but that "getting there will be an adventure".
By the year 2100, the world's energy system will be radically different from today's. Renewable energy like solar, wind, hydroelectricity and bio-fuels will make up a large share of the energy mix, and nuclear energy too will have a place.
Mankind will have found ways of dealing with air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will have reduced the amount of energy needed to power buildings and vehicles.
He writes of two possible scenarios. The first he calls Scramble. The alternative scenario he refers to as Blueprints.
In the Scramble scenario, nations rush to secure energy resources for themselves, fearing that energy security is a zero-sum game, with clear winners and losers. The use of local coal and homegrown biofuels increases fast.
Taking the path of least resistance, policymakers pay little attention to curbing energy consumption - until supplies run short. Likewise, despite much rhetoric, greenhouse gas emissions are not seriously addressed until major shocks trigger political reactions. Since these responses are overdue, they are severe and lead to energy price spikes and volatility.
Let us hope the world chooses another option. This one, which Shell calls the Blueprints scenario, looks much better.
Blueprints scenario sees numerous coalitions emerging to take on the challenges of economic development, energy security and environmental pollution through cross-border cooperation.
Much innovation occurs at the local level, as major cities develop links with industry to reduce local emissions. National governments introduce efficiency standards, taxes and other policy instruments to improve the environmental performance of buildings, vehicles and transport fuels.
As calls for harmonization increase, policies converge across the globe. Cap-and-trade mechanisms that put a cost on industrial CO 2 emissions gain international acceptance. Rising CO2 prices accelerate innovation, spawning breakthroughs. A growing number of cars are powered by electricity and hydrogen, while industrial facilities are fitted with technology to capture CO 2 and store it underground.
I'm not advocating anything in this diary, but only to point readers to information which others with some expertise tell us about what the future might entail. If we allow history to guide us we know that a totally accurate picture of the future cannot be projected.
Perhaps this diary will highlight some important concerns that lie ahead and help to guide us in making wise choices in our own lives and in encouraging leadership which will create and implement policies based on a balance of what is good for all humanity and which have respect for the planet we live on.