Climate Change 2030: More Extreme Weather

Empirical evidence alone—without reference to climate models—indicates that a general warming trend is affecting weather and ecosystems with increasing impacts on humans. Recent weather has been characterized by an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events—floods, droughts, tornadoes, glacial lake outbreaks, extreme coastal high-water levels, heat waves, cold spells, etc—and this will continue during the next 20 years.

According to the recent IPCC Special Report on Extreme Events (SREX), climate and socioeconomic trends will reinforce extreme weather, making it more frequent and intense. Although the number of tropical and extratropical cyclones probably will not increase, the average maximum wind speed for tropical cyclones will increase. Meanwhile, population growth and economic development will widen the exposure of people and property. The key unknown is whether improved disaster risk management measures will be adopted to effectively cope with these changing conditions by 2030.

Food security has been aggravated partly because during the last two decades the world’s land masses are experiencing weather conditions outside of expected norms. Observed temperature increases (though enhanced in the Arctic) are not solely a high-latitude phenomenon. Recent scientific work shows that temperature anomalies during growing seasons and droughts have lessened agricultural productivity. Degraded agriculture productivity, when coupled with more protectionist national policies tightening global supply, undercuts food security, especially in impoverished regions.

Flows in the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Niger, Amazon, and Mekong river basins have been diminished by droughts that have been persistent over the past decade. These trends are consistent with the expected effects of increased greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere, but due to the limited observational record (60 years) and a lack of understanding of decadal variability, one cannot discount the possibility that observed trends are due to other natural causes of weather variability.

Dramatic and unforeseen changes are occurring at a faster rate than expected in regions with frozen water. Current estimates suggest that Arctic summer sea ice will vanish in the period 2030-2050. Changes are occurring in the major ice shelves (Greenland and Antarctica) that were unforeseen even five years ago. Future rates of change are currently unpredictable because observed changes have outpaced the development of ice-prediction models. Scientists now estimate sea-level rise (SLR) of one meter or greater by the end of the century, most of which is expected to occur toward the end of the century. Sea-level rise could increase with rapid melt of either the Greenland Ice Sheet or the West Antarctica Ice Shelf. In the next 20 years, barring collapse of the ice shelves, the SLR trend will be modest and consistent with the recent record, about 3.3±0.4mm/year (that is, an additional ~2.5 inches global average sea-level rise). However, even this change, when coupled with potential storm surges from more intense storms and subsidence of delta lands, will have a significant adverse impact on coastal regions and Pacific small-island states.

Improved understanding of the changes in the stratosphere reveal that the ozone layer over the northern hemisphere is diminishing, leading to the possibility of greater ultraviolet (UV) radiation over northern hemisphere countries. Based on a better understanding of climate sensitivity and emissions, the present emissions pathway will lead to approximately 2°C warming by mid-century and approximately 3° to 6°C by end of century, depending on economic performance, technological advances, and energy policy. By 2030 the emissions trajectory will be cast, determining this century’s climate outcome.

Is There any Prospect for Global Governance of Migration?

Migration would seem to one of the least promising areas for global governance, but factors might emerge out of left field in the period to 2030 that could improve the prospects.

Global governance of migration seems far off.  Trends are hard to determine, with flows driven by economic, demographic, security, climate-related and political push and pull factors.  Adverse consequences of migration are borne unevenly, and concerns about migration often involve dyads or groupings of sending and receiving countries, often with little national incentives to widen their issues to broader forums.  National approaches have tended to dominate, with states eager to protect their prerogatives, less than completely willing to admit deficiencies in enforcement or demand for labor for their informal economies.  Weak countries that incur adverse consequences have little clout with more powerful sending or receiving countries.  Countries that might lead global governance issues would have to contend with “glass house” issues before trying to induce others to collective action.  If all this were not enough, adverse consequences and the net outcome of costs and benefits are notoriously hard to measure.  For example, erosion of social cohesion as a consequence of migration is hard to weigh against benefits of labor migration.  It is unclear who will be the future advocates of global governance of migration, if there are any.  It may be the closest we collectively get is a spaghetti-like network of bilateral commitments, conventions on standards, and side deals.

Global governance perhaps has come farthest for human trafficking, but with its criminal dimension, this is only partially a migration issue.  Human trafficking may be unique in the traction it gets because of shared concern or compassion for victims.

All that said, some form of global governance of migration would be rational for nation-states, because of the prospect for overall improvement in economic performance, and cross-cutting human rights.  Perhaps the strongest argument is that migration shocks will inevitably come, and they could be cross-regional or global in scope.  Some form or efforts are global governance could provide a rehearsal stage for cooperation in times of migration shock. Shocks of sufficient magnitude could even kick global governance of migration forward, with the right set of actors involved.

One big open question concerns the sources of future advocacy for global governance of migration.  Who will the strongest advocates be and will they have some common backgrounds?  Of nation-states do not champion improved governance of migration, will others?

There could be an intersection with the trend in which there are many more cosmopolitans globally, with fewer and weaker attachments to nation-states?  Globally, we could see more citizenship a la carte, including dual citizenship, with extensive freedom of action for this special kind of migrant.  Some of these cosmopolitans will primarily have economic motivations and incentives.  They will have strong preferences for lifestyle residences, flexible citizenship, and venue shopping for attractive public finance and investment arrangements.  However, there also will normative cosmopolitans, with sophisticated insider critiques of both the West and of emerging economies, with nuanced interpretation of home countries challenges, including challenges and human costs of unregulated migration. The counter argument is that successful advocates of global migration would need strong roots in the domestic politics of major player countries to work.  Normative cosmopolitans would likely not, under today’s circumstances at least.

Robert O. is one of the Research Directors in the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group, with a portfolio covering governance, democratization, and migration.

Mega-cities and Migrants

Between now and 2030, urban conglomerations will likely continue to be magnets for migration, including continued internal rural-to-urban migration in the developing world, urban-to-urban migration of poor people between neighboring countries, and migration of people to cities in Europe, and in strong emerging economies. Migration could easily add to the stresses on urban governance that already exist.  Mega-cities will cover hundreds of square miles, with increasing complex mixing of socio-economic classes in concentric circles from city nuclei to vast urban peripheries. A few key questions come to mind on the intersection of urban growth and politics, and all three involve migrants.

Is the supply of institutions and leaders for urban governance likely to meet the demand?  Demand for sound urban governance is likely to be intense.  There will be a premium on problem-solving for resource management, including food and water security, environmental standards, and working across seams in law enforcement because of their critical importance to the welfare of urban dwellers, including many migrants.

Under the right circumstances, people in mega-cities are likely to take the initiative to supply sound urban governance. Many examples already exist of grass-roots innovation and creativity; in fact, within the territories of almost-failed states, the city and local governance structures are often the best organized and most competent.

However, the ability of cities to take such initiatives will likely be dependent on how they are able to navigate public finance and their abilities to draw revenues from economic activities in cities and not losing those revenues to higher levels of government or to patronage.   Cities will seek effective workarounds to tap the revenues from large informal economies in cities, and using those revenues to improve services.  This is bound to involve accounting for and incorporating large numbers of internal or international migrants, without challenging their presence or residency.  Geo-demographic mapping—facilitated by ICT, could enable good characterizations of urban residents and neighborhoods.  Will city residents come to have a sense of agency that catalyzes problem-solving or will survival instincts dominate?

Are people likely to work across jurisdictions or borders to improve urban governance?  Policy coherence or coordination among cities within a country could give them leverage against central governments. In some cases, people from cities in adjoining countries could have more in common than with co-citizens from elsewhere in their respective countries, potentially mediated by migrants with ties to several countries. Moreover, shared interests between urban actors and international actors, such as NGOs, could empower urban areas and motivate actions to improve problem-solving in mega-cities. While sovereignty barriers between countries could prevent coordinated actions or cross-learning, barriers could be overcome by the public demand for problem-solving and the cross-nation affinities of many urban-dwellers.  Will workarounds prevail?

Will urban migrant concentrations act as incubators for political change or emergence of political entrepreneurs? Concentrations of migrants could catalyze social mobilization among urban residents, including creative ways to harness informal economies or foster political decentralization. Rural to urban migration also has played a role in revolutions in places as historically diverse as 1848 Europe, 1978/79 Iran, and the 2011 Arab Awakening.  People in urban areas and their vast urban peripheries could have more exposure to economic inequalities, more incentive to shake the system, and more access to new ideas than their co-citizens. The presence of large numbers of migrants could facilitate contagion of ideas across cities in unexpected ways, including ideas for improved governance.  Can social and political mobilization occur in ways that avoid blaming migrants?

Robert O. is one of the Research Directors in the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group, with a portfolio covering governance, democratization, and migration.

Could Western Europe Cope with New Waves of Muslim Immigration?

The potential for persistent instability in North Africa, the Levant, and South Asia clearly has high stakes for Western Europe, for lots of reasons, but foremost because of the prospect for increased migration from Muslim-majority countries.  This trend will likely reshape Western European society and politics.

With low projected economic growth, Western Europe would have many challenges with current levels of immigrant flows and immigrant residents.  Assuming that Western European fertility remains at sub-replacement levels, countries can expect to experience a rapid shift in ethnic composition, particularly around urban areas. While Western Europe’s future of demographic aging and declines in its working-age population should enhance immigrants’ job opportunities, labor market and workplace policies could continue to dampen formal-sector job growth. When coupled with job discrimination and educational disadvantage, these factors will confine many immigrants to low-status, low-wage jobs, and result in deepening societal cleavages.

  • The growing presence of Muslim communities in Western European countries has already triggered contentious debate over policies affecting human rights, group rights, education, women’s rights, freedom of expression, and the relationship between the state and religion.
  • Despite a sizable stratum of integrated Muslims across Western Europe, a subset will increasingly identify with Muslim communities that are relatively closed to outsiders, valuing their separation as distinct communities, oriented toward Muslim-specific rights and privileges, with some driven by a sense of alienation, grievance and injustice.
  • It may be that Western European governments, and political systems, could meet with limited success in managing integration of resident Muslims. Part of the challenge will likely be a surplus of policy goals—from mitigating radicalization to engendering adoption of shared values of tolerance and individual human rights, to respecting majority community values, and respecting minority community values. The skill and subtlety required to reconcile these diverse goals and implement programs with broad public support across multiple jurisdictions of government could well be beyond the capacity of most Western European states and their political systems.

Debates over Muslim-related social policies are almost certain to influence the structure and texture of the European political environment.  Even without increased levels of migration, Western Europeans face wrenching tasks of rewriting of social contracts and adaptation of political systems.  The presence of large Muslim minorities in Western Europe, as voters and as non-voting residents, will give these tasks a normative dimension that will hard to avoid.  It is a massive open question whether Europe’s rich and complex history of reconciling religion and the state will be a net hindrance or a net asset.

Robert O. is one of the Research Directors in the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group, with a portfolio covering governance, democratization, and migration.

Future Trajectories of Migration and Issues Policy Makers Will Face – Migration and Europe

New trends involving global migration?

In the period to 2030, I expect the powerful motivations that induced people to migrate in last 20 years are expected to persist.  The motivations of migrants will be shaped by both push and pull factors—pressure to exit and attraction of destination countries—resulting in increasing numbers of  migrants going to emerging economies with growing middle classes in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  Massive cities with informal economies and technology centers will likely have magnetic-like attraction for both internal migrants and people from poorer countries.

  • Migrants will continue to be pushed from their origin countries by environmental stress, including climate change, by war, civil conflict and crime, and by ethnic rivalries and discrimination.  Survival will motivate many to move, despite marginalization of refugees in destination countries.
  • Migrant motivations also will be powerfully shaped by pull factors, such as the attractions of greater wages, improved life chances, opportunity to better use their skills and education, and chances to influence their origin countries as part of cohesive Diasporas.  People affected by pull factors will range from low-skilled agricultural and service workers to top flight scientists and engineers.  Successful migration experiences of earlier migrants will feed motivations of others to take their chances, especially among women with constrained life chances in their home countries.

It is worth considering seven potential trends involving global migration:

  1. Proliferation of border control and immigrant identification technologies, to track not only flows across borders, but also activities of resident immigrants. Increased use, maintenance of data bases for residents, citizens for access to services.  There will likely be a related increase in opportunities for corruption, cyber intrusions, and false documentation.  Technologies could give governments capabilities they really don’t want to implement, especially for large informal economies.  Workarounds will abound.
  2. Sharp increase in emerging economies as immigrant destinations.  Labor migrants will take advantage of vibrant economic growth and large, urban informal economies, even if the environments portend social stresses.  Governments grapple with how to accommodate immigration as both a source of economic growth and of social tension. Efforts to introduce gradations in immigrant citizenship status (as in Roman imperial efforts to give legal status to peoples from the periphery). Where will middle class interests come down? 
  3. Aging societies will find ways to make labor migration work. Aging populations and mismatches between education and labor demand will make labor migration more important to economic performance. In these aging societies, private sectors will likely sustain and increase demand for migrant labor—for both low-skill and high-skill or professional workers, even if politically and culturally sensitive.  Despite episodic efforts to rein in migration, governments will generally be both unable to withstand private sector influences favoring migration and unable to systematically track and regulate individuals migrants.  Are backlashes inevitable?
  4. Intensified debate over status of labor immigrants and refugees in advanced social welfare states. We should expect increased social mobilization, legal maneuvering and NGO activities over rights and obligations of immigrants.  How immigrants relate to preexisting social contracts will become an increasingly important issue.  Will private sectors that need labor mount campaigns to support immigration and even immigrant rights?
  5. Tensions, frictions between government jurisdictions over migration. We should expect to see divergent goals and incentives of national and provincial or local governments, with increased efforts of urban jurisdictions to extract revenue from informal economies with extensive immigrant participation. Different jurisdictions will bear different kinds of costs for migration. We are likely to see increased attention to the obligations of residency, as opposed to citizenship, with lots of contention over which part of society can articulate such obligations.  Educational standards for new migrants will likely be contested.  Could inconsistencies between jurisdictions persist for years?
  6. Increased recognition by national and sub-national governments of reputational advantages of having immigrant rights and “the right to have rights” (Arendt), at least for the highly skilled.  National reputations will be a determinant of flows and, recruitment of talent and could increasingly seen as a factor in economic performance.  Can we expect a global market for highly skilled, mobile people?
  7. Increased government-to-government cooperation over labor migration. We could see some nascent global governance mechanisms, and increased incentives for governments to bind themselves in bilateral or multilateral institutions, conventions or protocols, in order to (1) gain leverage with domestic constituencies over migration issues, and (2) gain reciprocity from signatory nations. Implementing and monitoring such agreements will be difficult, contentious, and touch sensitivities regarding sovereignty.  Would brain drain or brain gain be among the first issues to be addressed?

Robert O. is one of the Research Directors in the National Intelligence Council’s Strategic Futures Group, with a portfolio covering governance, democratization, and migration.

A Snapshot of the Global Trends 2030 Report

Track Record of Global Trends Works

Before launching work on the current volume, the NIC commissioned an academic study of the four previous Global Trends studies, going to back to the first edition in 1996-97. The purpose of the review was to examine the Global Trends papers to highlight any persistent blind spots and biases as well as distinctive strengths. A subsequent conference focused on addressing shortcomings and improving on the studies’ strengths for the forthcoming work. The academic review and conference were used by us in designing the present project.

The key “looming” challenges that our reviewers cited for GT 2030 were to develop:

  • A greater focus on the role of US in the international system. Past works assumed US centrality, leaving readers “vulnerable” to wonder about “critical dynamics” around the US role. One of the key looming issues for GT 2030 was, “how other powers would respond to a decline or a decisive re-assertion of US power.” The authors of the study thought that both outcomes were possible and needed to be addressed.
  • A clearer understanding of the central units in the international system. Previous works detailed the gradual ascendance of nonstate actors, but how we saw the role of states versus nonstate actors was not clear. The reviewers suggested that we delve more into the dynamics of governance and explore the complicated relationships among a diverse set of actors.
  • A better grasp of time and speed. Past Global Trends works, “correctly foresaw the direction of the vectors: China up, Russia down. But China’s power has consistently increased faster than expected . . . A comprehensive reading of the four reports leaves a strong impression that [we] tend toward underestimation of the rates of change . . . ”
  • Greater discussion of crises and discontinuities. The use of the word “trends’ in the titles suggests more continuity than change. GT 2025, however, “with its strongly worded attention to the likelihood of significant shocks and discontinuities, flirts with a radical revision of this viewpoint.” The authors recommended developing a framework for understanding the relationships among trends, discontinuities, and crises.
  • Greater attention to ideology. The authors of the study admitted that “ideology is a frustratingly fuzzy concept . . . difficult to define..and equally difficult to measure.” They admitted that grand “isms” like fascism and communism might not be on the horizon. However, “smaller politico-pycho-social shifts that often don’t go under the umbrella of ideology but drive behavior” should be a focus.
  • More understanding of second- and third-order consequences. Trying to identify looming disequilibria may be one approach. More war-gaming or simulation exercises to understand possible dynamics among international actors at crucial tipping points was another suggestion. We will let our readers judge how well we met the above challenges in this volume.

For a snapshot of the outline to the Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, click on “Le Menu”