Assessing Global Trends for 2025

The Futurist, July-August 2009 | Go to article overview

Assessing Global Trends for 2025


In November 2008, the National Intelligence Council released a landmark study, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World. The report lays out the possibility of a future very different from the reality to which most of the world is accustomed. Among the key possible futures:

1. U.S. influence and power will wane, and the United States will face constricted freedom of action in 2025. China and Russia will grow in influence. Wealth will also shift away from the United States toward Russia and China.

2. A broader conflict, possibly a nuclear war, could erupt between India and Pakistan. This could cause other nations to align themselves with existing nuclear powers for protection.

3. Rising world population, affluence, and shifts in Western dietary habits will increase global demand for food by 50% by 2030 (World Bank statistic). Some 1.4 billion people will lack access to safe drinking water.

As the report was published in the midst of a historic financial crisis, some of these scenarios now seem not so much wild cards as prescient depictions of a near-certain future. Others, in retrospect, seem further away. The once-indomitable engine of Chinese growth now seems significantly less robust. At 6%, the country's GDP is scheduled to grow at half of last year's pace, but still much faster than the United States. The question becomes, which scenarios remain credible, and which no longer apply?

THE FUTURIST asked four experts--Newt Gingrich, former U.S. House speaker; Elaine C. Kamarck, a senior policy adviser for Democrat Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign; Peter Schiff, economics adviser to Republican congressman Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign; and Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich--for their views on the report's key forecasts and what the future of the United States, Asia, and the global economy looks like now, in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Newt Gingrich: Rising to Meet Global Challenges

THE FUTURIST: To what extent do you agree with the four key points outlined in the Global Trends 2025 report?

Newt Gingrich: The influence and power of the United States may decline, but this will not be a decline in our economic, political, or military strength. Rather than the United States enjoying the role of the world's lone superpower, as we do today, the influence of other countries such as India and China will increase in relative terms. As the countries with the two largest populations, India and China will certainly have a voice in the next quarter century, and their current economic growth, along with the attendant increase in their military strength, will support that voice.

With respect to India and Pakistan, the United States can do much in the way of reducing tensions between them. What we are witnessing is a continuing ascendance in the strategic importance of both nations. The November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai have raised tensions between India and Pakistan considerably. The United States can continue to work with both nations to reduce these tensions, find common ground where possible, and forge a cooperative relationship between them.

THE FUTURIST: Are the events laid out in the report inevitable?

Gingrich: Nothing is inevitable. In my book, Implementing the Art of Transformation, I provide a point of reference for considering what the decades ahead may look like. There will be more growth in scientific knowledge in the next 25 years than occurred during the past 100 years. We are exceeding, by four to seven times, the rate of change of the past 25 years. This means that, by even the most conservative estimate, in the next 25 years, we will experience the scale of change experienced between 1909 and 2009.

THE FUTURIST: How might the negative scenarios be averted?

Gingrich: Access to natural resources and energy may be the most important challenge the world faces in the next quarter century. …

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