Pieces of a Puzzling 2050 As seen from the present of 2022
Imagining the future is frequently a delightful pastime, as evidenced by the numerous science-fiction works that have been published over the last century. The various authors pondered how humanity and the role of human beings (both collectively and individually) will be shaped by the interplay between technological advancement, societal dynamics, cultural trends, political reorganisation, space exploration and environmental change. It would not be wrong to state that some of these works have anticipated or even encouraged the development of some of today’s mundane features: the internet and wireless communication, gadgets with ever-increasing computational power and storage capacity, artificial intelligence, the search for intelligent life in the universe, plans to colonise other planets (i.e., Mars), genetic engineering as well as the negative impact of human activity on the environment and the climate. Of course, while predicting the future is challenging for even the keenest and most knowledgeable of scholars, educated guesses and analyses are still welcome and well-worth engaging in. Below are several takes by Romanian students from the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, the Master’s Programme “Geopolitics and Business”, on various issues of interest and how we can expect them to impact the world of less than three decades from now. In short, it is more or less on “their life in 2050”. The selection, assumedly casual rather than scholarly, is based on their subjective current concerns with regard to a future to be objectivated one way or another, which some of them perceive as implacably possible / plausible / probable, whilst others envisage as preferable and somehow influenceable. And if there is one thing to known for certain about the(ir) future, it is just the certainty of its arrival.
I. POLITICS / GOVERNMENTS
We live in a truly surprising world which, from year to year, presents substantial changes regardless of the field studied. But what surprise will 2050 bring us?
One of our assumptions regarding the world in 2050 is an increasing cooperation between the United States and China. The possibility of a conflict that could begin in South East Asia requires interventions from China and the US, a perspective which should encourage a large-scale collaboration in solving global and regional problems, while reducing “...the risks of possible differences between the two states” (Koim 2012, p.114). The democratization of China, which will create a more liberal regime prompted by its international successes is also not excluded, with Chinese culture and language gaining more and more ground every year. The reform of multilateral institutions will become “...the final stage in cooperation between China, on the one hand, and other states of the world, on the other” (Podberezkina 2016, p.551).
As for the American Dream, it will regain its popularity: the ever-growing GDP, the technological leap of the US, its efforts to end conflicts, as well as active cooperation with other countries will significantly improve the image of the country.
In Europe, the Eurozone crisis, as well as the migrant crisis, will prove to be a catalyst for deeper political and economic restructuring. “A battle for power” (Borishpolets 2020, p.34) will take place between the countries which chose to stay in the game after Brexit, i.e., Germany, France and Italy, from which, most likely, the former will be the winner.
Furthermore, as long as technology brings about international recognition and high status – an indispensable attribute of soft power –, Russia will rediscover its scientific and technological potential, “...becoming the creative center for intercultural development between states” (Danilevskii 2019, p.15). There will be no shortage of Russian ambitions to counterbalance the US and China internationally, but its role will remain regional rather than global.
Speaking of emerging states, India will benefit enormously from the new cooperation environment, by improving its relations with China. Brazil will position itself more and more insistently as the leader of a new “green revolution for Africa” (Borishpolets 2020, p.56), which will mark its switch to soft-power methods to grow its influence.
The lack of natural resources anticipated in the future will lead to multiple misunderstandings between the states of the world. Thus, we can talk about the division of the international community into the “world of consumers” and the “world of producers” (Yushkov 2018, p.6). It is also expected that the differences between these camps will grow more and more over the years.
Countries with high consumption (e.g., one of the main players in world politics, China, is expected to face great shortages of natural resources) will try to ensure their energy security by gaining control over hydrocarbon reserves on the territory of other states – this means a return to the status quo of the early twentieth century.
Otherwise, Russia, Norway, Denmark, the US and Canada, in the context of the lack of natural resources, will oppose the interests of other countries more actively in the issue of dividing the Arctic. The European Union will propose the common development of the area in order to award it the status of “world energy heritage” (Diakina 2019, p.45). Moreover, the main argument of the EU will be the inability of the five states to guarantee the ecological development of the Arctic, a position which, of course, will be contradicted by the main political actors of this geographical area.
...And Political Polar Shifts
In the next 30 years, an increasingly multipolar world is likely to develop, in which the current liberal international order and its institutions will be subject to increasing tension. As global political and economic power becomes increasingly diffuse, the challenge of securing agreement between member states may hinder the effectiveness of global multilateral institutions (Global Strategic Trends 2018, p.112).
As history has shown us, political systems rarely possess the characteristic of longevity, but are repeatedly subject to gradual changes, turning them into a contemporary ephemeral concept. This was accelerated by continuous technological and social advances. When we talk about the dominant form of government today, democracy is definitely the most widespread answer.
The accelerated pace of democratization following the end of the Cold War and the democratic transitions in Armenia, Burkina Faso and Malaysia are a reason for optimism and a possibility of expanding forms of government based on the supremacy of the human will (Frantz 2021 p.11). China, on the other hand, describes its system as a “democratic dictatorship”, a concept that resonates with Karl Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Unlike governments led by lone autocrats, however, China’s political system today has party as well as government institutions and procedures seeking to make political decisions through a collective rather than dictatorial process (Freeman 2021, p.25).
A lot has been written about the forms of government of the future, the scientific basis of what has been said being represented by the historical trends of the forms of government, hence the possibility of developing concepts as an evolutionary result of democracy.
“Noocracy”, described by Vladimir Vernadsky as “a social and political system based on the priority of the human mind”, is the configuration of a futuristic Global Brain for governance, which has the ability to integrate individual minds, natural and artificial, with the help of the cumulative effects of information networks. Another form of government could be “Cyberocracy”, based on the efficient use of information, its aim being to overcome existing shortcomings typical of traditional bureaucracies: thus, one might think of an administrative AI or even an AI as head of state.
Before any of this happens, artificial intelligence may become so sophisticated as to constitute an “AI Singleton” i.e., a world order based on the existence of a single decision-making entity at the highest level of control. Another possibility could be a democratic World Government aiming to end genocide, provide global security, defend human rights and eliminate human problems as far as possible. This (process of “neo-”)globalization can lead to the creation of a democratic planetary government, a liberal democracy on a global scale (Dvorsky 2014). The possibilities of futuristic forms of government are so numerous that “the idea of the future is more fruitful than the future” (Henri Bergson).
II. ECONOMY / MARKETS
The Crypto-bonanza or Good Old Gold?
The exponential growth and expanding popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in recent years have aroused the interest of many investors. In addition, certain social influencers are wondering if Bitcoin, in particular, is able to play a similar role to gold in an investment portfolio.
Based on legality, transparency and security, gold ranks above the cryptocurrency. In terms of scarcity, both can be said to be scarce. In terms of volatility, Bitcoin is much more volatile compared to gold (Singhal 2021). Investors consider Bitcoin digital gold, a finite resource just like traditional gold. The World Gold Council estimates that above-ground supply will increase by about 1-2% per year, and the last Bitcoin is expected to be mined in 2140 (coded to a maximum of 21 million coins), according to a fixed, disinflationary program (Bloomberg Intelligence 2021).
In essence, investors view gold and cryptocurrencies as having very different roles in an investment portfolio. A 2019 survey by the World Gold Council showed that investors see cryptocurrency as a more speculative investment and value it for the opportunity to achieve short-term returns. Gold, on the other hand, has been praised for its strategic role in preserving long-term wealth and for its hedging position against riskier investment options (Royal Mint 2021).
There’s No Place like Outer Space
By 2050, the commercial space industry is expected to grow exponentially and reach trillions. This will be supported by the deployment of “mega-constellations” (which provide telecommunications and internet services), miniature satellites (which allow research and development) and orbital refuelling services (Williams 2021).
Space will become more and more accessible as launch costs continue to fall. By the middle of this century, this could lead to space tourism, space hotels and even habitats in Low Earth Orbit. The ability to prospect and mine asteroids near Earth will lead to an influx of precious metals and building materials into the global economy. This is expected to lead to the devaluation of precious metals and the creation of a space construction industry.
The development of the space economy may be undermined by earthly geopolitical rivalries, such as that between the US and China, but competition between them may also be the catalyst for such development. It is also possible that military conflicts will spread into space, at least to some extent. At the same time, the development of a stable space economy will depend on sound government regulations and support (Weinzierl & Sarang 2021).
Initiate The_Economy_v.2.0.exe? – Y / N
According to Resumeble (2020), new jobs will be created due to advancements in artificial intelligence, digital technology and automation. Given the fact that outer space will host new avenues for industry and commerce, we can likely expect to see an increased interest in spacecraft piloting as a professional occupation. A space pilot will, of course, need to know how to fly a spaceship, have recorded flight hours, but also possess knowledge of engineering, astronomy and astrophysics (Steel 2020). Another profession will deal with the rebirth of extinct species, thanks to technology which will be able to recreate and reintroduce organisms in their own natural habitats (Trade Schools 2020).
The number of people over the age of 60 is estimated to reach over 2 billion, which will be a major social concern for the future. Companionship of the elderly will involve attentive communication to their needs and concerns, assisting with daily chores, or something as simple as walking with them. Also, as IT services will still be in high demand, a broker for such services will be required. The intermediation of suppliers and customers will be done by this person with the role of negotiator. AI specialists will be able to work in specializations such as information technology, computer engineering or health informatics. The destructiveness and captivity of social networks and other online channels will expand the role of mental rehabilitation counsellors so that they may provide help to people to recover their lives and scale back on their digital consumption. As well, a must-have will always be the pharmaceutical industry, which encompasses all processes of discovery, development, production and in particular marketing of drugs and pharmaceuticals. Not to mention the machine building industry, responsible for producing a diverse multitude of machinery, equipment, tools, appliances and consumer goods, as well as military products.
As cyberattacks became more sophisticated, so will security tools be developed to match the danger they pose, and thus they both grow in complexity. Cyber attackers now generate a wide range of threats that challenge and sometimes override traditional security methods. This development is now leading more and more companies to change their budget allocation, gradually abandoning the purchase of specific and independent security products in favour of access to specialized teams of highly qualified engineers in the analysis and remediation of IT security breaches, as well as the adoption of a coherent architecture of integrated and automated products for the detection, limitation and then mitigation of cyber-attacks (Lux Pedia 2021).
III. SOCIETY / CULTURE(S)
Sic Transit Fides Mundi
30 years from now, Romania will be predominantly an atheist country. Taking into consideration a foresight for Romania, studies found out that, somewhere around 2050, this country will be predominantly an atheist country. This is a consequence of the fact that, the higher the level of economic security, the more people tend to lose faith in God, and the belief that He will always be there to assist them during difficult situations also weakens as a result.
In fact, there are countries in Europe that are already displaying this growing trend towards atheism, such as France or Germany (which, interestingly enough, are also the countries where major religious reforms were initiated), but also Norway and Sweden. The Czech Republic is interesting as a successful post-Communist country which experienced the largest irreligiousness in Europe.
“Let’s just say that atheism will prevail... That does not mean that Romania will be 100% an atheist country, but rather that the number of people who hold no belief in God will be higher than those who declare themselves adherents of certain religions. It would be very surprising indeed that, 30 years from now, we should expect to have no economic problems to ensure financial security” (Vâlcu 2018). “It is a gradual process, but Artificial Intelligence will cause great changes in religions”, views this evolution, from another perspective, monk Tensho Goto.
From Programming Languages to Simply Languages
Population growth in some states could have a significant impact on how people communicate in the future. As the population of a state grows, the popularity of the dialect (or dialects) spoken in that state increases. That said, no one can say for sure what language will be spoken in the future. However, from now on, Globish, Cinglish and Spanglish and all other hybrid language forms derived from English that can be found across the globe will have to deal with a novel competitor: Robotish.
A team from the Netherlands has devised a language of the future for communicating with robots. In the Dutch laboratories of the Eindhoven University of Technology, a group of researchers have invented Roila (the language of interaction with robots), a language that enables communication between humans and machines. It includes African, German and English words and has a simple grammatical structure. The new language is characterized by phenomena existing in most languages spoken by humans, but an algorithm guarantees the diversity of sound necessary for making everything easy to reproduce and understand for robots.
Thus, we can infer that we will not have a single, unique language spoken all over the world, but people will have the opportunity to choose the language they want to learn depending on (inter-)personal objectives.
The Role of Family in the Age of Acronyms
The inherent unpredictability of the future makes it rather difficult to talk about the evolution of family as an “institution”. We can see a major change in the education a child today receives from their parents. Countries began offering rights to children, eliminating for instance corporal punishment as a legitimate tool for discipline and education and designating it as domestic violence. The 2050s will bring a new contrast in families: certain parents will be more permissive and will no longer have authority over their children, while some will also be very strict. As a result, the rights and degrees of liberties of children should scale with their age so as to preserve an adequate equilibrium with the child’s growing ability to understand and exert responsibilities.
Given the evolution of medical science and its technological advancement, an increase in average life expectancy in the future is foreseeable. With better access to healthcare, stable food sources and the eradication of certain deadly diseases, we will be able to live longer than our predecessors. Nowadays, a family usually consists of three generations. Sociologist and futurist Ian Pearson notes that by 2050 it is estimated that most families will have four generations. The advancement of technology will also bring greater unity and more time spent in the family. Working from home is already a habitual reality, and the parent-child relationship will be more tightly knit, directly proportional to the time spent together. Psychologists warn, however, of the ultra-accelerated advancement of technology. Family relationships tend to become more and more superficial, perhaps even “robotic”, causing divorces and separations.
Family will still remain important in the future, because the most important moral values are passed down from generation to generation, and the education received in the first years of life is essential. We hope that society will understand that a family needs a man (father) and a woman (mother) for a healthy mental life of the children. The origin of gender ideologies consists in the radicalization of the principles of feminism, which introduces the concept of gender. Being a woman, being a mother, is considered an outdated social role in which women were subjected to oppression, an outdated society in which the main aggressors were male chauvinists and the system created by a patriarchal society. This ideology implies contempt for real women and for everything that specifically defines their femininity and maternal dimension. Hatred of men, perceived as the oppressors, reflects the novel class “battle”. Pro-LGBT lobby groups act in unison with feminism because it creates a united front against the perceived majority oppressors and emphasizes that women and other oppressed groups can cooperate to be freed from stifling social hierarchies and roles. In the case of women, it is an involuntarily imposed social role which requires men to cease to be those who oppress women. In 2021, the full acronym for people who do not identify as male or female is LGBTQQIP2SAA. This acronym stands for “lesbian, gay, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirited, androgynous and asexual” (Duke Office for Institutional Equity 2021). This multitude of sexual ideologies is only the beginning for the near future, as existing ideologies, combined with medical advances, enable new subcultures or even unique individual differentiation on the basis of extreme personal autonomy.
We Will Live Longer, But Will Everyone Prosper?
The major changes taking place in the world such as climate change, dwindling planetary resources or socio-economic problems have repercussions on a future which is closer than we imagine.
Among the major social transformations that will have a significant impact on the world’s population and activities over the next 30 years are international migration and demographic ageing, which influence each other in different ways. In 2050, the major cause of migration will be climate change, expected to intensify over the years, but also the depletion of the planet’s resources, which will bring other major imbalances such as hunger in very poor countries. The World Bank (2021) points to this possible scenario, where more than 216 million people will migrate from their countries in the next three decades.
Another growing phenomenon that will eventually become global is demographic ageing, characterised by a constantly lowering birth rate and increasing life expectancy. According to the United Nations, in 2017, one in eight people in the world was aged 60 or above; however, in 2050, the proportion of older people relative to the general populace is expected to reach about 20%. According to studies conducted in recent years, the elderly population in developing areas is growing faster than in developed regions, with an estimated 79% of those in older age living in developing regions by 2050.
Of Vice and Men
Few human creations have withstood time, and even fewer have evolved with humanity and become an integral part of what it means to be human. These include vices that have remained the same over time or become more decadent. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, vices have played an important role in human culture. From alcohol to drugs such as the Arabian kief – a popular drug of the time that influenced even the Romanian language by the appearance of the phrase “a avea chef”, i.e., “to have fun (kief)” –, substance use (and abuse) has influenced and influences culture. Today we witness the most passionate fight against the use of banned substances the world has ever seen, concomitantly with the largest drive ever to decriminalize certain drugs. “The War on Drugs” is destined to fail, and its tacit end will be declared with the legalization of low-risk drugs in most Western states.
The morality of legalization can be debated both for and against, but truth always lies in profit, and money will be more valuable than principles in the eyes of politicians. In the US, the legalization of cannabis cultivation has led to an economic boom in rural areas that have managed to lay the foundations of a market of about $1.6 billion, expected to grow until 2028 according to market analysis (EVE Grand Research 2021). Moreover, the idea of a future in which human vices will become human rights has long appeared in the zeitgeist of Western societies, which can be seen in the works of great sci-fi writers such as John Brunner, who, through such novels as “Stand on Zanzibar”, written in 1968, has foreshadowed this cultural change. The future of these matters, however, remains a mystery to many of us, and the truth will not be known until decades later.
Globally, the number of illicit drug users is likely to increase by up to 25% by 2050, and the largest increase is expected to take place among urban populations in developing countries, according to the United Nations. By 2050, alcohol could be completely replaced, most likely with a drink called “alcosynth”, created by Professor David Nutt, which will mimic all the perceived positive effects of alcohol, except for dry mouth, sickness, and headaches by the next day. The effects of alcosynth are expected to persist for up to two hours after consuming 4-5 drinks, so that the state of discomfort will not be reached. According to Professor David Nutt, alcosynth will be able to provide the pleasure of alcohol without affecting the liver and heart.
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same – Social Structure and Classes in 2050
The social structure and stratification of social classes are debated and commented on from different perspectives, most often related to Weberian and Marxist traditions of thought.
Social structure can be understood as “persistent patterns of behaviour and interactions between individuals or social positions” (House 1981; Kohn and Slomczynski 2006). The social structure can be conceived as a two-dimensional model composed of social class and social stratification. Social class is broadly defined as a group of people who have the same socio-economic status. They are most obviously represented by groups defined by their relationship to ownership and control over the means of production (economic criteria), as well as by their control over the labour power of other individuals. Social stratification posits the social hierarchy in terms of power, privileges and prestige, which differentiates some individuals from others.
According to a study by The Brookings Institution, by 2030, Asia will host 3 billion middle-class people. This is 10 times more than North America and 5 times more than Europe. There is also substantial growth in the rest of the emerging world. Latin America’s middle class is expected to rise from 180 million to 320 million by 2030, led by Brazil. Moreover, in Africa and the Middle East, it is expected to double, from 140 million to about 300 million.
IV. SCIENCE / TECHNOLOGIES
An App(le) a Day Keeps the Doctor Away – the Rise of Digitally-Augmented Healthcare
Healthcare technology is a broad, multidisciplinary concept that includes concepts from an interplay of technology and healthcare. It implements digital transformation in healthcare, integrating software, hardware and services, with the help of mobile health applications, electronic medical records, portable devices, telemedicine, and personalized medicine (Bernstein 2021). In 2050, it is expected that the field of technological healthcare, through mobile digital medical applications, new tools and software, will prevent disease and reduce healthcare costs, helping to improve the ability to accurately diagnose and treat diseases, to innovate and adapt care by providing treatment according to the problems of each individual. At the same time, digital health technologies, through smartphones, social networks and internet applications will enable patients and consumers to manage and track health and wellness activities more effectively (Glasser 2013).
In the future, health technology will revolutionize this field, as the practice of medicine will allow for innovative forms of treatment through the accelerated exchange of patient data. In this way, it will bring tremendous benefits to all stakeholders in the provision of healthcare. Increasing disease prevention is crucial, as the declining numbers of doctors, the overburdening of infrastructure and long distances and scheduling issues between doctors and patients are creating gaps in the provision of health services, especially in rural areas, which can be at least partially filled by the use of telemedicine. Telemedicine will materialize through emergency triage, online video consultations and digital care projects. There will be many emerging trends in the field of digital healthcare, which are developing at different rates, such as: artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain and virtual reality (Jedamzik 2019; Glasser 2013).
In the field of healthcare, the introduction of VR (Virtual Reality) will radically influence technology in 2050, helping in the preparation and planning of surgery, allowing both surgeons and patients to feel more comfortable with the procedures. VR methods will help manage chronic pain and mental health (Richards 2021).
Cruising the Highway of Tomorrow with Self-Driving Cars
The speed of technological change leads to more and more companies being forced to adopt and develop different business models and standards. Although limited to our current state in the year of 2021, we can anticipate how things may evolve in the not-too-distant future in terms of transportation in the digital age. This area is expected to face major revolutions with the introduction of electric and autonomous vehicles. By 2050, these trends will accelerate to the point where we shall witness the creation of new transport infrastructures, which will be completely different from the traditional ones we are used to. The year 2050 will therefore lead to self-driving becoming more and more commonplace. Though we can only guess “when” this will come true, there is a steadily growing number of cars today with onboard technology enabling them to autonomously take us “where” we need to go. The first company to materialize this option (in limited form) was Tesla, in 2016, and, in 2021, Mercedes-Benz comes with the EQS model that proposes the same type of driving.
Why is the idea of self-driving cars gaining more and more traction? It is due to several studies showing that people will be able to travel longer distances without the need for taking breaks to rest, the rate of accidents will decrease significantly, people with various disabilities will be able to “drive” this type of car, and old age will no longer be a cause for concern for unsafe travel. Of course, we must also take into account the disadvantages that come with this concept. These digitized systems can be targeted by hackers. Although many people venture to say that the year 2050 will bring the concept of flying cars, this is still far from being an everyday reality. Instead, we will certainly be able to talk in the future about the existence of intelligent highways and transport networks that will be based on artificial intelligence complementing the self-driving vehicles.
In 2050, we will also be able to benefit from new means of transportation, such as Hyperloop. When we talk about Hyperloop, we are talking about an infrastructure made up of vacuum tubes through which capsules or trains carrying people or various goods will pass. Why vacuum? So that friction is reduced to a minimum. This type of transport will reach speeds of up to 1200 km/h, is independent of the outside temperature and is completely electric. Why do we need such a means of transportation? From an economic point of view, it will significantly reduce transport costs, and from an ecological point of view, the level of pollution will be significantly reduced, as Hyperloop will be able to be a substitute for air transport that is currently harmful to the environment.
Enlivening Homes with Smart Technology
The concept of the smart home has become commonplace in the last decade. Smart home is a broad term, referring to a convenient household configuration, where devices are interconnected via the Internet and can be controlled remotely or run automatically, allowing the user to manipulate various functions such as home security, temperature, lighting, or monitoring inhabitants. As technology continues to evolve, there is no exact definition of the concept and no clear distinction from other similar terms, e.g., assistive technology, telemedicine or e-health (Chan 2009).
It is expected that by 2050 more and more people will have household robots, which will take the form of mobile units, and will be able to do various household chores such as cleaning, cooking, etc. Moreover, AI (artificial intelligence) home managers are expected to become a common feature of future households. The AI manager will be connected to all home appliances, record the owner’s habits, and streamline the home budget (Williams 2021).
At the same time, it is estimated that by 2050 about 68% of the world’s population will move to urban centres, compared to 56% today. The infrastructure necessary to support the relocation of people to the city will be a major stress on the environment. Thus, the cities of 2050 will be built in such a way that the basic needs of the people are met in a sustainable way, and the waste is kept to a minimum.
V. ENVIRONMENT / NATURE
Ionuț-Constantin MIHĂILĂ (BULARCĂ)
The Planetary Price of Progress – How Human-Driven Climate Change Will Threaten Our Lives
The current trend of climate change is of particular importance, as it is also the result of human activity, especially since the middle of the 20th century. According to a 2050 climate scenario developed by NASA, the continued increase of the greenhouse emissions at the current rate could lead to additional global warming of about 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. People will likely be forced to work indoors or take frequent breaks to prevent sunburn, while extremely hot weather could also lead to changes in the disease vectors, which will have an impact on human health. A changing climate is likely to degrade but also improve the performance of food systems. Some regions may become more productive in warmer climates, while others may see a significant decline in food production. A McKinsey study (2019) found that by 2050, while soybeans would benefit from higher temperatures, rice and wheat could become increasingly volatile.
There are estimates that up to 185,000 airline passengers can be stranded each year due to extreme heat (48 degrees Celsius), about 23 times more than at present. Other extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, are likely to have an impact on the infrastructure that serves both individuals and companies. Every day, due to rising water levels, part of the world will have to evacuate to higher altitudes. Droughts and heat waves will create a special hellscape as vast regions will succumb to severe aridification, sometimes followed by desertification. In 2050, cities like Marrakech and Volgograd will be on the verge of becoming deserts. Hong Kong, Barcelona, Abu Dhabi and many more will desalinate seawater, desperately trying to keep up with the constant wave of immigration from areas that have dried up completely. In the greenest scenario, with low emissions and sustainable development, the world could still see 44 million people forced to flee their homes. By 2050, suspended particles from outdoor air pollution and ground-level ozone are expected to become the leading cause of global environmental deaths. One study found that without any change in emissions by 2050, 1,126,000 premature deaths are expected each year from ozone exposure.
By the year 2050, the climate may well make greater and greater portions of the Earth uninhabitable. It is certainly not where we want to head towards.
Can Earth’s Flora and Fauna Weather the Effects of Global Warming?
Biodiversity is the unique diversity of life on our planet that sustains our natural, cultural, economic and social wellbeing. However, by 2050 it will be severely affected and diminishing at an alarming rate. The species most threatened by climate change are the African gorillas, the Koala bear, the amphibians, the Andean spectacled bear, the Houbara bustard, the Tanzanian forest birds, the bright Central American Quetzal, the Bengal tiger, plants sensitive to precipitation found only in the Cape Floristic Kingdom of South Africa, coral reefs, as well as pollinating insects. The WWF’s annual report shows that a third of the polar bear population is threatened with extinction by 2050 due to climate change. The imperial penguins, which live on the huge floating ice floes of Antarctica, are also threatened with extinction if global warming continues. The report also notes that the Miombo Forests, which are home to African wild dogs, SW Australia and the Amazon-Guyana are expected to be some of the hardest hit areas. The Amazon could lose 69% of its plant species and up to 90% of amphibians, while 86% of birds and 80% of mammals could disappear locally in the Miombo forests of South Africa.
Due to their specific geographic location, these species are threatened with extinction, changing both their hibernation period as well as their reproduction rate, which perfectly illustrates the sensitivity of wildlife to global warming. This is further reflected in the changes occurring in the morphology, physiology and behaviour of the affected species and their ecosystems, as well as in water flows, land salinity and even the frequency of extreme weather events. Some living organisms, on the other hand, have managed to adapt to the new climatic conditions. The World Wildlife Fund gives the example of the golden jackal, which has been observed leaving the warm parts of Southeast Europe more and more often, venturing to areas of Central Europe. Moreover, rainfall will no longer be enough to supply water to the plants in the catchment basin and this will also affect animals that are dependent on plants. In fact, the rainfall will affect the pressure on the water reserves of African elephants – which need to drink 150 to 300 litres of water a day. Currently, the Earth is losing animal species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate, which means that 30-50% of the planet’s species will be extinct by 2050.
Why should this concern us? Because declining biodiversity threatens human wellbeing as well, especially that of poor and indigenous rural communities, whose livelihood often depends directly on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Humanity’s Vital Water Odyssey – the Dangers of a Possible Future Drought
Life as we know it cannot be the same without water. Humans, animals, plants, we all depend on water for survival, on both an intracellular and extracellular level. Although more than 70% of the Earth surface is covered by water, only 0.3% can be used by humans. These days, plenty of countries are suffering due to a lack of fresh water reserves.
Today, 321 million gallons of water are used by humans every day for various purposes. According to the World Resources Institute, the future is not as bright as we might think. In 2050, the penury of water resources will not affect just countries in the Middle East, but also large economies like China, India and the US (the more developed a country, the greater the water consumption) as well as countries from Oceania and North Africa.
Agriculture-based economies will need new technologies and drought-resistant crops. The climatic changes and the fact that in 2050 the world population will be around 10 billion will put high pressure on water reserves. The need for water will create tension between neighbours and may even result in wars. As a result, we can argue without doubt that the lack of resources, in particular of water, will generate chaos and future military clashes.
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