There “will not be total Armageddon’’ in the next 40
years, but humanity will confront daunting challenges – including a
slowing global economy and unremitting climate change – on the road to
2052, according to a new report by a global think-tank that analyzes
problems facing humanity’s future.
Jorgen Randers, a member of the Club of Rome and author of its report,
entitled “2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years,’’ outlined
his findings in the Dutch city of Rotterdam ahead of its publication
One of the report’s more provocative conclusions is that the United
States will peacefully “slide into a secondary role’’ on the world stage
– largely because its policy makers seem incapable of acting proactively
on long-term issues – to be replaced by China as the world’s “premier
driving force on the planet.’’
The report assumes that short-term political calculus and a polarized
electorate will hinder what policy makers in the US can achieve in the
By contrast, the report said that China’s “authoritarian’’ government is
free to make forward-looking decisions without being encumbered by the
democratic process – such as having to consult with their citizens.
“Their governance systems differ, will differ, and help China to move
fast when the United States will be floundering’’ to take decisive
action, wrote Randers.
He does not see the ideological struggle between the two powers turning
into a military conflict because, historically, “China’s ambition is to
While China’s economy will show strong growth, the US will slow,
altering living standards in both countries.
“The most surprising loser will be the current global economic elite,
particularly the United States,’’ where wages will remain flat for a
generation and a downward trend is forecast in per capita, after-tax
However, “the poor peasants who currently move into Chinese megacities
will look back 40 years from now at a most spectacular rise in
The report claims that in 2052, China will have a Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) per person of 56,000 dollars per year – about three-quarters of
the US level at the time.
Among other conclusions, Randers believes the global population will
stall – peaking at 8.1 billion around 2040 and then declining – since
people moving to cities tend to have fewer children.
As many as 3 billion people could remain poor in 2052. But for the
majority of the world’s population, life expectancy will exceed 75 years
thanks to better public health systems.
The report also predicts that worldwide GDP growth will slow due to a
shrinking workforce and lower productivity growth in mature economies.
Still, the world economy will roughly double in size by 2050.
Founded in 1968, the Club of Rome is made up of individuals from the
business, political, and scientific world whose mission is to identify
the crucial problems facing humanity. It’s best-known members include
former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and George P. Mitchell, an
American businessman and philanthropist best known for pioneering
profitable shale gas extraction.
The 374-page report suggests that the most dire threats to future
generations come from rising greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity
Although “resource and climate problems will not become catastrophic
before 2052,’’ there will be “much unnecessary suffering’’ due to
increased social strife brought on by extreme weather.
For example, there is a growing risk of droughts in some regions – like
the central US, eastern Europe, northern Africa, and the Amazon – and
floods in others. Populations in these areas may not be able to adapt
quickly enough to precipitation changes. Furthermore, sea levels will
rise, potentially displacing millions in lowland coastal regions such as
Bangladesh. More intense hurricanes and the increasing spread
water-borne diseases are also predicted.
The report states that the world’s current response to climate change
“could be too slow,’’ already putting the planet on a “dangerous and
unstoppable’’ track in the second half of the 21st-century.
After all the ominous predictions, Randers does offer advice to
individuals anxious about the future: move to a place that is not overly
exposed to climate change, like Central Europe, find a job in energy
efficiency, and encourage children to learn Mandarin Chinese.
“This will most likely get them a job that will surf on the rapidly
expanding wave of Chinese activity on Earth,’’ said Randers.