Ten Points about Global Threats
MARCH 3, 2006
On March 3, 2006, Erik Peterson, senior vice president for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, presented "Seven Revolutions," which contained the following excerpts:  
  • Population growth (expected to reach 7.8 billion by 2025) will occur in those regions least capable of supporting it—the Middle East and Africa.
  • By mid-century, global aging without parallel in the history of humanity will mean the number of older people will exceed the younger population for the first time in history, shattering dependency patterns. Aging will affect a broad spectrum of economic activities, including growth, labor markets and taxation, as well as security issues between countries, regions, social segments and even generations.
  • Water scarcity will be a critical human health issue, with the possibility that more people could die of water-related illness than HIV/AIDS by the year 2020. Scarcity also will have potential geopolitical repercussions, since the global distribution of fresh water does not correlate with population. For example, China has 22 percent of population but only 8 percent of the world's usable water.
  • Energy demand will explode by 2025, increasing by more than one half of its current level, although the development of renewables (wind, sun, and bio-based energy) also will accelerate in that time frame.
  • Huge leaps forward in computation will mean that speed, memory and accurate computations at ever-lower costs will be available.
  • Advances in genomics will usher in personalized medicine, with drugs developed and applied on the basis of patients' specific DNA structures. Ethical battles will continue over human cloning, stem cells, genetically modified organisms and privacy issues.
  • Nanotechnology will account for $1 trillion in worldwide annual industrial production in 15 years and could employ 2 million workers.
  • Policymaking processes will be constrained by the reduced decision time frames available to leaders. Technology that promotes instant poll results, as well as access to leaders by citizens and groups will increase the complexity of leaders' work and decisions.
  • Weaponization of the Internet will accelerate, as groups use it to wage war. Terrorist groups, using Sept. 11 as the standard for success, will look to asymmetrical warfare and "superviolence," using nuclear weapons and material. Bioterrorism also will present an increased danger.
  • To overcome these global challenges, the traditional political thinking based on the nation state will need to change to include global strategic coalitions between governments, international organizations, private sector and businesses, with sustained leadership from the United States.