While urbanization will spur economic growth and the rise of middle classes across the globe, demand for "food, water, and energy will grow by approximately 35, 40, and 50 percent respectively," the report predicts.
The world can start to plan for these twin demands now. New technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, and alternative energy sources, along with conservation and smarter building techniques, can ameliorate energy shortages. Food and water, ever codependent — 70 percent of human water use goes to agriculture — will be trickier, especially if production of crops for biofuels increases.
Developing nations and their donors would do well to concentrate on so-called precision farming and micro-irrigation. Currently, most farming wastes about 60 percent of freshwater involved; underground drip irrigation can reduce waste to less than 10 percent. Less-expensive, traditional smart practices such as zero-till farming are also shamefully underused.
And, sorry agricultural Luddites, the report makes a strong case for increased development and use of genetically modified crops. Countries that compete for the same fresh-water sources — China, India and Pakistan with the Indus; Egypt and its upriver Nile neighbors — should firm up water-sharing agreements before the population crunch hits.
One way in which this Global Trends report differs from its predecessors is with its focus on how American foreign policy, and political and societal change within the U.S., will affect global trends. Under every scenario, American pre-eminence gives way to a first-among-equals status.
China's and India's economies are likely to continue to grow at a pace double that of the U.S.'s boom in the first half of the 20th century, and an aging Europe will continue to lose influence. U.S. standing will increasingly rely on soft power and the strength of its open economic and political systems.