It is New Year’s Day, 2020. The newspapers are replete with remarks about the way the last decade went. Few are unwise enough to make predictions about the way the coming decade will unfold. But hey ho. Someone has to do it.
Looking back at predictions that other people have made in the past, a couple of themes emerge. The first is that predictions of impending catastrophe almost always turn out to be groundless. There is obviously something about the human psyche which is attracted, in some way, to notions of terrible times ahead. And so if you are straining in your seats waiting for awful predictions, take a step backwards.
Secondly, even when predictions are more or less right, they tend to overestimate rates of change. By and large, things happen in the world pretty slowly, and probably rather more slowly than they did century or so ago.
Trying to keep these thoughts in mind, here is my brief time capsule, to be opened in 10 years’ time. It would be hopeless to expect that they will all be right.
My guess is that there will be no very dramatic changes in temperature over the next 10 years. No dramatic warming. And probably no dramatic cooling either. The next ice age – inevitable enough – will be another 10 years closer but Europe will not have iced over.
This is not to say that climate change alarmism will be dead in 2030. There will come a time when climate change alarmism is generally regarded as about as daft as the panic about the millennium bug, but that time is more than 10 years away. There are plenty of examples of religious and near religious beliefs which many people cling onto long after they are demonstrably potty. But my guess is that, by 2030, mainstream public opinion about global warming will be split into three roughly equal camps. At one end of the spectrum, there will be alarmists still asserting that we are all going to fry (notwithstanding that it will be, by then, some 30 years since global warming ceased). At the other end of the spectrum, there will be alarmists proclaiming the imminent arrival of the next ice age. And in the middle there will be the agnostics, and those who presume that life will go on very much as normal.
What will happen to little Greta? Will she disappear from the public gaze? Possibly. Although I have a hunch that she will be the youngest MEP ever, and in 2030, will be a seasoned Green politician.
The UK Labour Party
It is now more or less a century since all predictions of the breakup of the traditional UK political divide have proved unfounded. Nevertheless, so firm is the grip of the far left on the UK Labour Party that I suspect it will, by 2030, have slipped to only the third largest political party in the UK.
The will, I predict, be more electric vehicles on the road in 10 years’ time, but not overwhelmingly so. My guess is that something like 15% of vehicles on the road might be all electric by the year 2030.
Over the next decade, it will become increasingly apparent to governments around the world that both wind power and solar power are subject to severe limitations. There will still be many coal-fired power stations in China and India. In the West, governments will be building more nuclear facilities. In the UK, shale gas will produce much of the necessary power.
Boris Johnson will have been the UK’s Prime Minister for 10 years. He will have proved to have been far more liberal in his politics than many might have expected, and will have been much buoyed by the success of the UK outside the EU.
Following Brexit in January 2020, the EU will be struggling along whilst slowly falling apart. It will never have quite recovered from losing the UK’s contribution to its coffers. Several countries will see internal pressure to leave the EU, but the EU will exert considerable financial and military pressure to prevent any further defections.
After a decade of repeated calls for another referendum on Scottish independence, the situation will remain unresolved. Support for Scottish independence will have been much dented by the realisation that independence would cause huge problems in Scotland. Pro-independence extremists will have indulged in significant civil unrest.
Donald Trump will win a second term in office. For the purpose of the 2024 elections, however, the Democratic party will have found a more convincing candidate, and will win in both 2024 and 2028.
China and Hong Kong
Fairly early in the coming decade, China will probably lose patience with Hong Kong, send in the troops and Hong Kong will be efficiently subjugated to Chinese totalitarian will. Chinese economic power will continue to grow, but at a slower rate than hitherto. Western companies will be much less willing to manufacture in China.
Islamophobia will be more prevalent in 2030 than it is in 2020. The West will, however, have learnt its lesson that military adventurism in the Middle East causes more problems than it solves, and the Middle East will be left rather more to its own devices. Islamic communities in Western countries will come under increasing pressure to assimilate into their host communities.
Mass migration will continue to increase as a problem for Western nations, and there will be increasing public support for border controls. Countries like Italy and Greece, which are particularly vulnerable to illegal immigration, will increasingly turn to less humane methods of controlling illegal immigration.
On almost every test, people around the world are better off today than they were 10 years ago, and probably, that trend will continue. The world in 2030 will not look that different from the world in 2020 but incremental improvements in many areas will continue to reduce extreme poverty and improve the lot of people as a whole.
It is perfectly possible, of course, that I will be proved wrong about all of these things. If you wish to put forward alternative suggestions, feel free to comment.