By Glen Hiemstra, December 2005
What Will be the Biggest Stories of 2006?
Global Migrations in Response to Global Warming Will Begin
Climate scientists feel duty-bound and government spokespersons are directed to say that no single weather event can be tied to global warming. Thus, the hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 are described, wishfully, as one-off events, unlikely to occur again. But this is basic BS, and even those mouthing the official line are likely to know it. 2005 saw not just the record hurricane season, but the warmest year on record and the greatest loss of summer ice-pack in the Arctic ever witnessed by humans.
“Climate scientists feel duty-bound and government spokespersons are directed to say that no single weather event can be tied to global warming.”
Thus, in 2006 we will see two dramatic events with regard to global warming. First, the debate will shift conclusively from “is global warming real”? to “what do we do about it”? Second, human migrations to escape wild weather will begin, first on a small scale as, for example, the Alaskan towns of Shishmaref and Newtok are relocated to avoid erosion from rising seas with less ice. As the year progresses, we will see an acknowledgment that the Gulf will not rebuild to previous levels. If the 2006 hurricane season approximates 2005, this out-migration from the Gulf will accelerate.
Peak Oil Again
Evidence grows that a peak in global oil production is at hand, sooner than later. It is educated guesswork to name an exact date when half the world’s oil will be used up (leaving out dirty and expensive tar sands and oil shale). Currently about four times as much oil is used annually as is discovered, and thus the oil account balance, if you will, is running down hill fast. Both the challenge of coping with a world of expensive oil and the opportunities for alternatives will accelerate in 2006. Time grows short to make a reasonably smooth transition to a new energy world, and there is legitimate doubt that it can be done.
A tipping point toward national health insurance in the U.S. will be reached
Increasingly desperate businesses, struggling to compete in the cheap global economy, will come together and demand a national response and national health insurance. This urge will continue to manifest for now as greater cost shifting to workers, but the burdens placed on middle class workers to fund their own pensions, pay their own health insurance, pay twice as much for homes, 60 percent more for gasoline, and so on are overwhelming and unsustainable. This is particularly true as higher paying jobs are eliminated or outsourced and replaced with jobs that pay, on average about 60 percent of the jobs that were lost. Americans without health insurance soared to 45 million in 2005, including one-third of all children. The U.S. dropped in global rankings to 43rd in infant mortality, 84th in measles immunization, and 89th in polio vaccinations, just three of a host of indicators of a deteriorating health picture in the U.S. As all the economic and political forces converge, the American public will begin to challenge the conventional wisdom that national health insurance is out of bounds, and, combined with business leaders, a national program will be put on the table.
Biggest Technology Trend in 2006
Nano-materials continue coming to market
Nano-concrete is an example of a non-exotic material made better through nanotechnology and coming to market. The ability to see and analyze material at the nano-scale means that concrete can now be manufactured in such a way as to enable 3-inch thick highway bridge decks. There are 150,000 obsolete bridges in the U.S. alone. Nano-concrete can enable them to be rebuilt more cheaply and faster, and to be stronger and longer lasting. The key impediment will be standard aversion to new ideas in the construction industry.
Wireless – everything
77% of the global population now lives within cell telephone range, and a 2006 phone approximates a year 2000 desktop computer in power. 1.5 million cell phones are sold a month in India. Convergence of music, video, internet content, into this telephone will continue. In 2005 laptop computers, virtually all with built-in wireless communications outsold desktops for the first time, everywhere. Look for desktop computer sales not just to lag in 2006 but to fall off a cliff, as consumers prefer the portability of today’s powerful laptops and cell phones.
Biggest Wild Cards
Deflation of the U.S. housing bubble
A housing slowdown or even crash seems likely, but we will see. What does seem apparent is that housing costs in popular urban areas, where most people want to live, is growing way beyond local salaries, and thus the ability to the next generation to afford local housing except by inheritance is becoming a real problem. How this is sustainable is not clear to me.
Possible beginning of a revitalized global labor movement
The security of workers grows more precarious, and the likelihood of someone or some event triggering greater worker organization seems possible.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, author, consultant, blogger, internet video host and Founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.