The office of the United States Director of National Intelligence has issued dire warnings about impending global chaos stemming from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the consequences of climate change in its quadrennial Global Trends report.
The future is bleak. Mass migrations, food shortages, and political instability are right around the corner, the report states:
The physical effects of climate change are likely to intensify during the next two decades, especially in the 2030s. Extreme storms, droughts, and floods; melting glaciers and ice caps; and rising sea levels will accompany rising temperatures. The impact will disproportionately fall on the developing world and poorer regions and intersect with environmental degradation to create new vulnerabilities and exacerbate existing risks to economic prosperity, food, water, health, and energy security. Governments, societies, and the private sector are likely to expand adaptation and resilience measures to man – age existing threats, but these measures are unlikely to be evenly distributed, leaving some populations behind. Debates will grow over how and how quickly to reach net zero green – house gas emissions.
Man-made climate change is by far the greatest existential crisis facing human civilization regardless of whether the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement are met:
During the next 20 years, the physical effects from climate change of higher temperatures, sea level rise, and extreme weather events will impact every country. The costs and challenges will disproportionately fall on the developing world, intersecting with environmental degradation to intensify risks to food, water, health, and energy security. There will be increased emphasis on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions to achieve net zero with new energy technologies and carbon dioxide removal techniques to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, as the world gets closer to exceeding 1.5°C—probably within the next 20 years—calls will increase for geoengineering research and possible deployment to cool the planet, despite possibly dire consequences. Debate will increase over how and how fast the world should reach net zero as countries face hard choices over how to implement drastic emissions cuts and adaptive measures. Neither the burdens nor the benefits will be evenly distributed within or between countries, heightening competition, contributing to instability, straining military readiness, and encouraging political discord.
It adds later on that by the early 2030s:
The world was in the midst of a global catastrophe. Rising ocean temperatures and acidity devastated major fisheries already stressed by years of overfishing.
At the same time, changes in precipitation patterns depressed harvests in key grain producing areas around the world, driving up food prices, triggering widespread hoarding, and disrupting the distribution of food supplies, leading to global famine.
A wave of unrest spread across the globe, protesting governments’ inability to meet basic human needs and bringing down leaders and regimes. … Across the world, younger generations, shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and traumatized by the threat of running out of food, joined together across borders to overcome resistance to reform, blaming older generations for destroying their planet.
According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated alarming world-wide trends:
COVID-19 has shaken long-held assumptions about resilience and adaptation and created new uncertainties about the economy, governance, geopolitics, and technology. To understand and assess the impact of this crisis, we examined and debated a broad range of our assumptions and assessments related to key global trends. We asked a series of questions: Which existing trends will endure, which trends are accelerating or decelerating because of the pandemic, and where are we likely to experience fundamental, systemic shifts? Are the disruptions temporary or could the pandemic unleash new forces to shape the future? Much like the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to produce some changes that will be felt for years to come and change the way we live, work, and govern domestically and internationally. How great these will be, however, is very much in question.
The pandemic and corresponding national responses appear to be honing and accelerating several trends that were already underway before the outbreak. COVID-19 brought global health and healthcare issues into sharp relief, exposed and in some cases widened social fissures, underscored vast disparities in healthcare access and infrastructure, and interrupted efforts to combat other diseases. The pandemic also highlighted weaknesses in the international coordination on health crises and the mismatch between existing institutions, funding levels, and future health challenges.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.