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In total, the world will add approximately 60 million people each year and reach a total of 8 billion by the 2030s. Ninety-five percent of that increase will occur in developing countries. The more important point is that the world’s troubles will occur not only in the areas of abject poverty but also, to an even greater extent, in developing countries where the combination of demographics and economy permits populations to grow, but makes meeting rising expectations difficult.
In a globalized world of great nations, the United States may not always have to take the lead in handling the regional troubles that will arise. By the 2030s, every region of the world will likely contain local economic powers or regional organizations capable of leadership. In any case, the United States will often find it prudent to play a cooperative or supporting role in military operations around the world and will almost certainly provide support in organizing or convening global coalitions for some time to come.
Domestically, the future of the U.S. financial picture in both the short and long term is one of chronic budget deficits and compounding debt. The federal deficit for the 2009 fiscal year was about $1.42 trillion or one tenth of U.S. economic production in that year. For the first two months of the 2010 fiscal year, the cumulative deficit was already higher than any previous total yearly deficit run by the federal government and even the most optimistic economic projections suggest that the U.S. will add $9 trillion to the debt over the next decade, outstripping even the most optimistic predictions for economic growth upon which the federal government relies for increased tax revenue.
To meet even the conservative growth rates posited in the economics section, global energy production would need to rise by 1.3% per year. By the 2030s, demand is estimated to be nearly 50% greater than today. To meet that demand, even assuming more effective conservation measures, the world would need to add roughly the equivalent of Saudi Arabia’s current energy production every seven years.
In a world with adequate global supply, but localized food shortages, the real problems will stem from food distribution. How quickly the world reacts to temporary food shortages inflicted by natural disasters will also pose challenges. In such cases, the Joint Force may find itself involved in providing lift, logistics, and occasionally security to those charged with relief operations.
As we approach the 2030s, the world’s clean water supply will be increasingly at risk. Growing populations and increasing pollution, especially in developing nations, are likely to make water shortages more acute. Most estimates indicate nearly 3 billion (40%) of the world’s population will experience water stress or scarcity. Absent new technology, water scarcity and contamination have human and economic costs that are likely to prevent developing nations from making significant progress in economic growth and poverty reduction.
The impact of climate change, specifically global warming and its potential to cause natural disasters and other harmful phenomena such as rising sea levels, has become a concern. Scientific conclusions about the potential effects of climate change are contradictory, with some arguing that there will be more and greater storms and natural disasters: others, that there will be fewer.
Even though populations today are much larger and more concentrated, increasing the opportunities for a new pathogen to spread, the fact that mankind lives in a richer world with greater knowledge of the world of microbes, the ability to enact quarantines, a rapid response capability, and medical treatment suggest that authorities could control even the most dangerous of pathogens. The crucial element in any response to a pandemic may be the political will to impose quarantine.
Addressing the cyber threat is no small challenge. Cyber threats will demand new approaches to managing information, securing information systems, and ensuring our ability to operate through attack. As we seek to address the threats from cyberspace, Joint Force personnel must always understand that every networked computer is on the front line. Everyone who logs on is a cyber defender first.
Moreover, challenges to free access to space are growing. The U.S. relies heavily on space-based assets to observe the operating environment and orient far-flung forces at global distance in highly distributed networks. This dependence creates both advantage and vulnerability.
Advances in technology will continue at an exponential pace as they have over the past several decades. Some pundits have voiced worries the United States will lose its lead as the global innovator in technology or that an enemy could make technological leaps that would give it significant advantages militarily. That is possible, but by no means a foregone conclusion.
As our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrate, the process of integrating robots into the force will occur over time as they become ever-more capable having “some level of autonomy - adjustable autonomy, or supervised autonomy, or full autonomy - within mission bounds.
A special class of nanotechnology, biotechnology, is focused on the manipulation and engineering of the substance of life, including such elements as the genetic code, protein engineering, and artificial life. Biotechnology as a field is now bigger than physics in terms of money spent, scientists employed, and discoveries made