National Intelligence Council: Global Trends 2015 2000  

A Dialogue About the Future With Nongovernment Experts


Key drivers are identifeid that willmould the future world of 2015. Water availability will rise in importance, and energy concerns will dominate.

The key drivers identified are:

(l) Demographics.

(2) Natural resources and environment.

(3) Science and technology.

(4) The global economy and globalization.

(5) National and international governance.

(6) Future conflict.

(7) The role of the United States.

In examining these drivers, several points should be kept in mind:

By 2015 nearly half the world's population—more than 3 billion people—will live in countries that are "water-stressed"—have less than 1,700 cubic meters of water per capita per year—mostly in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and northern China.

In the developing world, 80 percent of water usage goes into agriculture, a proportion that is not sustainable; and in 2015 a number of developing countries will be unable to maintain their levels of irrigated agriculture. Overpumping of groundwater in many of the world's important grain-growing regions will be an increasing problem; about 1,000 tons of water are needed to produce a ton of grain.

Developing Countries Challenged to Provide Infrastructure (115k)

Measures undertaken to increase water availability and to ease acute water shortages—using water more efficiently, expanding use of desalinization, developing genetically modified crops that use less water or more saline water, and importing water—will not be sufficient to substantially change the outlook for water shortages in 2015. Many will be expensive; policies to price water more realistically are not likely to be broadly implemented within the next 15 years, and subsidizing water is politically sensitive for the many low-income countries short of water because their populations expect cheap water.

Water has been a source of contention historically, but no water dispute has been a cause of open interstate conflict; indeed, water shortages often have stimulated cooperative arrangements for sharing the scarce resource. But as countries press against the limits of available water between now and 2015, the possibility of conflict will increase.

Nearly one-half of the world's land surface consists of river basins shared by more than one country, and more than 30 nations receive more than one-third of their water from outside their borders.

Water shortages occurring in combination with other sources of tension—such as in the Middle East—will be the most worrisome.

The global economy will continue to become more energy efficient through 2015. Traditional industries, as well as transportation, are increasingly efficient in their energy use. Moreover, the most dynamic growth areas in the global economy, especially services and the knowledge fields, are less energy intensive than the economic activities that they replace. Energy production also is becoming more efficient. Technological applications, particularly in deep-water exploration and production, are opening remote and hostile areas to petroleum production.

Sustained global economic growth, along with population increases, will drive a nearly 50 percent increase in the demand for energy over the next 15 years. Total oil demand will increase from roughly 75 million barrels per day in 2000 to more than 100 million barrels in 2015, an increase almost as large as OPEC's current production. Over the next 15 years, natural gas usage will increase more rapidly than that of any other energy source—by more than 100 percent—mainly stemming from the tripling of gas consumption in Asia.

Asia will drive the expansion in energy demand, replacing North America as the leading energy consumption region and accounting for more than half of the world's total increase in demand.

Fossil fuels will remain the dominant form of energy despite increasing concerns about global warming. Efficiency of solar cells will improve, genetic engineering will increase the long-term prospects for the large-scale use of ethanol, and hydrates will be used increasingly as fuels. Nuclear energy use will remain at current levels.

World Energy Consumption 1970 - 2015 (28k)

Meeting the increase in demand for energy will pose neither a major supply challenge nor lead to substantial price increases in real terms. Estimates of the world's total endowment of oil have steadily increased as technological progress in extracting oil from remote sources has enabled new discoveries and more efficient production. Recent estimates indicate that 80 percent of the world's available oil still remains in the ground, as does 95 percent of the world's natural gas.

Oil-producing countries will continue to exert leverage on the market to increase prices but are unlikely to achieve stable high prices. Energy prices are likely to become more unstable in the next 15 years, as periodic price hikes are followed by price collapses.

By 2015, global energy markets will have coalesced into two quasi-hemispheric patterns. Asia's energy needs will be met either through coal from the region or from oil and gas supplies from the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, and Russia. Western Europe and the Western Hemisphere will draw on the Atlantic Basin for their energy sources at world prices.


5th WorldReturn to 5W
ExpectationsMore Expectations
5WJ logo Free Sign Up