Intelligence reports in the United States have little to offer as comfort to a planet that is tired of more than a year of pandemic. According to them, in the next twenty years the world will continue to get closer to a place pretty bleak.
On Thursday, the National Intelligence Council, a center of the National Intelligence Directorate’s office charged with preparing forecasts and strategic estimates, published its quadrennial report entitled “Global Trends”.
According to an article in the Washington Post included in the report, in our time horizon we will attend a world troubled by the coronavirus pandemic, the ravages of climate change, marked by mass migration, and a growing gap between what people demand of their leaders and what they can really offer.
The intelligence community has long warned legislators and the general public that the The pandemic could profoundly reshape global politics and US national security.
The authors of the report, which does not represent official US policy, describe the pandemic as a preview of the crises to come.
Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a globally destabilizing event -the editorial board defined it as “the most significant and unique global disruption since the Second World War- which has “reminded the world of its fragility” and “shaken old ideas” about how well governments and institutions might respond to a catastrophe.
Furthermore, the authors state that The pandemic accelerated and exacerbated the social and economic fissures that were already present before its arrival, in February 2020. And that it reinforced the risks of “more cascading global challenges, ranging from disease to climate change and disruptions to new technologies and financial crises,” the authors write.
The report warns of an “imminent imbalance between existing and future challenges and the ability of institutions and systems to respond.”
Within societies, fragmentation is increasing – politically, culturally and economically – and“Large segments of the world’s population are becoming distrustful of institutions and governments that they believe are either unwilling or unable to address their needs”says the report.
As a result, the effects of the pandemic will persist and could shape future generations’ expectations of their governments., particularly when a warming world leads to new human conflicts, including a dire scenario of global food shortages and mass violence.
The report finds that the international scene is largely determined by the rivalry between China and the United States, but it asserts that no state is prepared to become the dominant global force. As competing powers fight to improve their positions, progress will be made towards “a more volatile and conflict-prone geopolitical environment.”
The technologyWith its full potential to boost economies and improve communications, it can also exacerbate political tension, as it has in the past.
More and more people are likely “Lean towards the information spaces of people who share similar points of view, which reinforces the beliefs and the own understanding about the truth ”, the report concludes.
Although the predictions are risky and the report’s authors caution that they are not trained to see the future, they do dare to draw five scenarios on a kind of sliding scale that can help us know where the world will turn as we approach 2040.
The 5 future scenarios analyzed by intelligence specialists
At the most optimistic extreme, a kind of “Rebirth of democracies” could usher in a new era of US global leadership, in which economic growth and technological achievements offer solutions to the world’s greatest problems. In this picture, Russia and China will be weakened, almost like authoritarian vestiges whose most brilliant scientists and businessmen have fled to the United States and Europe.
In the other side, in the dark version of the future, there is the “tragedy and mobilization”; a scenario in which the United States is no longer the dominant actor, and a global environmental catastrophe causes food shortages and a “bottom-up” revolution, with young people scarred by the mistakes of their leaders during the pandemic, the need to adopt policies to repair the climate crisis and long-standing social inequality. Against this backdrop, a European Union dominated by green parties works with the United Nations to expand international aid and focus on sustainability, and China joins in to quell internal unrest in its famine-stricken cities.
Between those extremes, the report imagines three other possibilities: China becomes a leading but not globally dominant state; The United States and China prosper and compete as the two major powers; and globalization fails to create a single source of influence, and the world becomes more or less competing blocs, concerned about threats to its prosperity and security.
The present has a lot to say about the future, and it is there that the authors find reason to be alarmed. “The international system, including organizations, alliances, rules, and norms, is misconfigured to address the aggravating global challenges facing populations,” the authors write.