October 22, 1998 USGCRP Seminar: "Which World? - A Look at Three Plausible Trend-Based Scenarios of the Future"

Tony Socci tsocci at usgcrp.gov
Mon Oct 19 11:15:59 EDT 1998

                         U.S. Global Change Research Program Seminar Series

  Which World? - A Look at Three Plausible Trend-Based Scenarios of the Future

                                                       Public Invited

                                  Thursday, October 22, 1998, 3:15-4:45 PM
                                    Dirksen Senate Office Bldg., Room G-11
                                                      Washington, DC

                                                  Reception Following

What is a scenario and how does it differ from a prediction?  What is the
rationale for selecting a finite set of scenarios of the world among a host
of possible scenarios?  Based on current trends, where might the world be
heading and what are the implications?


Ms. Sherburne (Shere) Abbott, Executive Director, Board on Sustainable
Development, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC

Dr. Richard Moss, Head, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
Working Group II (Assessment of Climate Change) Technical Support Group,
Washington, DC


Dr. Allen Hammond, Director of Strategic Analysis, World Resources
Institute, Washington, DC


Looking 50 years into the future, the scenarios described below are based,
in part, on the analysis of persistent long-term, demographic, economic,
social, environmental, and security trends on a global scale, as well as
persistent long-term trends for seven major regions of the world.  The
analysis is based upon country-by-country data from the World Bank, the
United Nations, the World Resources Institute, and other authoritative
sources.  It also employs scenarios to go beyond trends and explore more
complex possibilities for how the future may unfold scenarios that reflect
very different mindsets or world views as well as different trajectories
into the future.

The results of this analysis suggest that the future is contingent upon a
number of critical factors.  Some critical trends are positive but others
suggest that the world is moving toward a troubled future; the plausible
trajectories diverge sharply.  Any global destiny depends on regional
choices made separately in many different corners of the world.  The world
is already so strongly interdependent that no region's future can be fully
separate from that of others.  The U.S. and Canada, for example, have an
enormous stake in the fate of developing regions as these regions represent
future markets, potential sources of instability and new diseases, and are
settings for large-scale migrations.  Their cooperation is critical to
managing global environmental, social, and security challenges.  Although
the challenges are daunting, the results of this work suggest that there
are many opportunities to shape an improved world.

                  Three Plausible Scenarios of a Future World

The scenarios derived from this analysis are:

1) Market World - a future based on the belief that market forces and new
technology will lead to rising prosperity and will offer humanity a bright
future, a future in which markets rule and global corporations dominate.
In this scenario, economic reform and technological innovation fuel rapid
economic growth.  Developing regions are integrated into the global
economy, creating a powerful global market, and bringing modern techniques
and products to virtually all countries.  The result is widespread
prosperity, peace, and stability.  This vision of the future is explicitly
or implicitly endorsed by the vast majority of corporate leaders and
economic theorists whose voices appear to be bolstered by the failure of
centrally-planned economies.

2) Fortress World - a grimmer future in which islands of prosperity are
surrounded by oceans of poverty and despair, a future of conflict,
violence, instability, social chaos, and growing environmental degradation.
This scenario is a pessimistic vision based on the failure of market-led
growth to redress social wrongs and prevent environmental disasters, at
least in many parts of the world, so that on the belief that unconstrained
markets will exacerbate these problems, large portions of humanity will be
left out of the prosperity that markets bring to others.  In this scenario
these failures eventually destroy the natural resources and social
framework on which markets and economic growth depend.  Economic stagnation
spreads as more resources are diverted to maintain security and stability.
Economic fragmentation occurs where conflict dominates or the social order
breaks down.  In this scenario enclaves of wealth and prosperity coexist,
in tension, with widening misery and growing desperation.

3) Transformed World - a future in which fundamental social and political
changes offer hope of fulfilling human aspirations.  This is a visionary
scenario in which fundamental social and political change, possibly even
changed values and cultural norms, give rise to enlightened policies and
voluntary actions that direct or supplement market forces.  This scenario
envisions a society in which power is more widely shared and in which new
social coalitions work from the grass roots up to shape what institutions
and governments do.  Although markets become effective tools for economic
progress, they do not substitute for deliberate social choices.  In this
scenario economic competition exists but does not outweigh the larger needs
for cooperation and solidarity among the world's peoples and for the
fulfillment of basic human needs.  This vision asserts the possibility of
fundamental change for the better - in politics, social institutions, and
the environment.

Surprisingly, the results of this analysis suggest that China's future does
not look as secure as conventional wisdom would have it.  Latin America,
but for one problem, might well become the richest of any developing
region.  Southeast Asia, despite its current problems, may still have the
brightest future of any developing region.  And the most dubious and
difficult future goes not to sub Saharan Africa but to North Africa and the
Middle East.


Dr. Allen Hammond is senior scientist and director of strategic analysis
for the World Resources Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan research
institute located in Washington, D.C.  His responsibilities include
institute-wide leadership in the use of analytical methods and information
tools for policy research, direction of the Strategic Indicator Research
Initiative on environmental and sustainable development indicators,
development of WRI's Communications 2000 strategy, and writing and research
on long-term sustainability issues.  He was formerly the editor-in-chief of
the World Resources Report series.

Prior to joining WRI, Dr. Hammond created the Research News section of the
international journal "Science" and went on to found, and serve as editor,
of several national publications, including "Science News" (published by
the American Association for the Advancement of Science), "Issues in
Science and Technology" (published by the National Academy of Sciences),
and the "Information Please Environmental Almanac"  (published by Houghton
Mifflin).  In addition, he broadcast a daily radio program for four years
(syndicated nationally by CBS), and has written or edited ten books.  His
most recent book is "Which World?" Scenarios for the 21St Century",
published by Island Press.

Dr. Hammond has won several national magazine awards and other journalist
honors.  Dr. Hammond has also published extensively in the scientific and
policy research literature; has lectured widely; and has served as a
consultant to the White House, to several U.S. federal agencies, to the
United Nations, and to several private foundations.  Dr. Hammond holds
advanced degrees in engineering and applied mathematics from Stanford
University and Harvard University.

The Next Seminar is scheduled for Monday, November 16, 1998

Tentative Topic: Environmental Security: The Case of Water Security in the
Southwestern U.S., and the Middle East

For more information please contact:

Anthony D. Socci, Ph.D., U.S. Global Change Research Program Office, 400
Virginia Ave. SW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20024; Telephone: (202)
314-2235; Fax: (202) 488-8681 E-Mail: TSOCCI at USGCRP.GOV.

Additional information on the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)
and this Seminar Series is available on the USGCRP Home Page at:
http://www.usgcrp.gov.  A complete archive of seminar summaries can also be
found at this site.  Normally these seminars are held on the second Monday
of each month.

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