May 30, 2012

The NIC’s Global Trends 2030 Blog

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) recently launched a new blog in advance of Global Trends 2030, which is expected to be published in November just after the presidential election. (The NIC releases a new edition of Global Trends after every presidential election in part to inform the incoming administration about what the world could look like in the future.) The new blog features experts’ commentary on a range of global trends that are expected to shape the future security environment, such as the rise of major non-western economies and the competition over natural resources, trends that readers are likely to read about in the new edition this fall.

A blog post by Myron Brilliant, a senior vice president for international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, offers some insights into how the NIC’s study will frame the discussion of natural resources, security and foreign policy by grounding that discussion in the context of other developing trends, such as emerging economic powers. In his post, Brilliant explores how rising economies such as China, India, Russia and Turkey will affect competition over resources. “[W]ill the growth of these economies put an inevitable strain on global resources and increase competition for water, oil and other commodities, culminating in a zero-sum race for resources — or is a collaborative approach possible?” Brilliant asks. “In India and China natural energy and water resources are scarce. Food wastage is a growing problem and developing a farm-to-market supply chain is evolving. Pressure is rising as we see increasing competition for resources (e.g., China’s appetite for securing resources in Africa). Global challenges require global solutions. We need to find ways to address these issues now before they become even more significant.

Previous NIC Global Trends publications have done a good job of highlighting important natural resource, demographic and environmental trends, including growing competition over scarce resources like petroleum and the national security implications of climate change. In its 2008 edition, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed Word, the NIC dedicated an entire chapter exploring resource constraints. “Access to relatively secure and clean energy sources and management of chronic food and water shortages will assume increasing importance for a growing number of countries during the next 15-20 years,” the report stated. “Energy and climate dynamics also combine to amplify a number of other ills such as health problems, agricultural losses to pests, and storm damage.”

The NIC’s 2008 report also gave attention to the strategic implications of the opening of the Arctic, an issue that still has not garnered much attention in Washington. The NIC’s 2008 analysis still rings true today: “The greatest strategic consequence over the next couple of decades may be that relatively large, wealthy, resource-deficient trading states such as China, Japan, and Korea will benefit from increased energy resources provided by any Arctic opening and shorter shipping distances.”

In general, the NIC’s new Global Trends 2030 blog is worth following closely. And the editors have made it easy to follow by publishing a blog schedule that previews topics several weeks in advance. My hope is that as that schedule fills out (the schedule is wide open after June 24), more discussion topics will focus on natural resources, environmental change and security.