Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

Global Risks 2035:: The Search for a New Normal

Mathew J. Burrows
Foreword by Brent Scowcroft
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2016
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 86
  • Cite this Item

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. i-ii)
    Brent Scowcroft

    To many, we live in dark times. A cursory glance around the world confirms that it is not as safe and prosperous as it could, and perhaps should, be. For the first time in history, a terrorist organization has claimed land as its own sovereign territory. A rising global power threatens its neighbors in the South China Sea. A once-great power purposefully destabilizes Europe at the same time the continent struggles with weak economic growth, an historic influx of refugees, and political upheaval. As the world becomes more interconnected, it is evident that leaders in both the public and private...

  2. (pp. 2-4)

    Much of the distress the world has experienced during the last five to ten years has been due to mistaken ideas about what was supposed to happen. With these notions now shaken, it is worthwhile to start by looking back twenty or so years before projecting ahead to 2035. In the 1990s, the United States and the West were enjoying the benefits of the end of the Cold War and the initial burst of globalization. Certainly, the Yugoslav breakup clouded the mid-1990s, but most assumed things were still on track toward a more peaceful, prosperous, and secure future, in which...

  3. Part 1: Unraveling at Home

    • (pp. 6-14)

      The introduction of the “individual empowerment” megatrend was the biggest innovation in Global Trends 2030, and the one that has gained increasing traction. Other Global Trends editions acknowledged the increasing clout of nonstate actors, but the focus—given it was a government publication—was on states. Every previous Global Trends volume led with a discussion of state power, usually about how new powers were rapidly coming onto the geopolitical landscape. In Global Trends 2030, individual empowerment was rooted in a number of underlying subtrends, such as the expanding global middle class, growing educational attainment worldwide with a closing gender gap,...

    • (pp. 15-22)

      The world is entering a period in which the West’s postwar social-welfare system is under growing threat, as the global demographic structure is being turned upside down. It is not just the West, but also China and other middle-income powers, that will have to deal with an aging workforce and unsustainable health and pension costs in the next decade. For sub-Saharan African countries whose birthrates remain high, overpopulation carries big costs. Unless they can provide the burgeoning youth populations with education, skills, and employment, the youth bulges are a source of instability.

      Managing demographic risk will be critical to every...

    • (pp. 23-27)

      Global Trends 2030 underlined the potential for a world of resource scarcity for the poorest on the planet if action was not taken to better ensure adequate water and food supplies—and warned that a perfect storm was brewing. Climate-change impacts are likely to be the biggest around the central core of the planet, exactly where population growth is the greatest. The expected temperature increases will make it harder to grow the same crops. By changing precipitation patterns in areas where rainwater was the principal source for agriculture, climate change also makes it harder to produce adequate food supplies for...

    • (pp. 28-32)

      There is no doubt that the world is poised for dramatic technological breakthroughs. Moore’s Law is now applicable to more than computing, which means several technologies are evolving exponentially at the same time. The world is looking at multiple revolutions, not just one.

      There are various ways to catalog the likeliest breakthroughs. In 2012, McKinsey Global Institute named twelve technologies which will have the biggest economic impact.63 They overlapped with the four technology arenas—information technologies, automation and manufacturing technologies, resource technologies, and health technologies—described and analyzed in Global Trends 2030.64 It is hard to anticipate the exact date...

  4. Part 2: The Breakdown of Post-Cold War Order

    • (pp. 34-41)

      The ongoing crisis in relations between Russia and the West is a reminder that economic interests and cooperation in international security can be sacrificed for the sake of political, geopolitical, and ideological motives and ambitions. International conflicts are likely to spread in both geographic area and level of destructiveness during the next twenty years—and increasingly, the major powers, including the United States, Europe, Russia, China, and India, will take opposing sides in these conflicts. This risk especially applies to differences between Russia and the United States/NATO in the post-Soviet space and, with less probability, to Chinese and American relations...

    • (pp. 42-49)

      In 2012, at the time of the publication of Global Trends 2030, the authors held out hope of a peaceful Middle East joining other regions in rapid modernization. The report suggested political Islam could moderate as it assumed power, which clearly did not work in Egypt. It was realistic that instability would not easily be sustained, and “the challenge will be particularly acute in states such as Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria.”88 Despite all the caveats, it tilted toward believing the region would turn over a new leaf.

      Viewed four years later, the situation is anything but comforting. The Syrian...

    • (pp. 50-54)

      China’s spectacular rise is historically unprecedented. No power in modern history has risen so fast to become, in a matter of three to four decades, a regional as well as global power. It is likely, already, the world’s largest economy. Many predictions of gloom or collapse for China have proven wrong. At the same time, China has entered a new chapter. It now has to prove it can sustain its rapid rise, moving up the value chain to become a world-class innovative society, not just a middle-income behemoth. This has implications for all. An angry China might be a dangerous...

    • (pp. 55-66)

      The multilateralist global system that the United States and the West built after the end of the Second World War was premised on an economically strong United States and West. In 1945, the United States was the only victor that was not completely devastated. World War II had brought the country out of the Great Depression, and the US GDP constituted more than 50 percent of the world’s total. Into the twenty-first century, the members of the Group of Seven (G7) were the world’s political and economic heavyweights. It has only been in the past several years that the collective...

  5. Part 3: Alternative Futures

    • (pp. 68-71)

      The breakdown of the post-Cold War political and security order is irrevocable. Not only are there new powers—particularly China—that do not share the West’s vision of a liberal order, but Western publics themselves have turned against globalization, which has been the overall megatrend of the past three decades. The geopolitical landscape ahead will be much different. The best case is looking at multipolarity with limited multilateralism. In the worst case, that multipolarity evolves into bipolarity with China, Russia, and their partners pitted against the United States, Europe, Japan, and other allies. In that scenario, conflict would be almost...