Politics and the future have something in common: they’re both inescapable. There’s simply no way around them. So this week, I started connecting some mental dots between all the America’s-in-decline-and-we’re-all-in-trouble future scenarios and the latest budget cuts. And I started to feel a little gloomy.
I recently got my hands on the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025 report, first published three years ago. I looked at some other climate change forecasts as well and here’s a little warning: it looks dire. Discouraging. Downright depressing. And for businesses and marketers, deeply disturbing.
Here are some glimpses at the predictions and the outlook and realities behind them.
- Outlook: Despite energy efficiency trends, global energy consumption will increase 50% from 2005 to 2025. New energy technologies will not be commercially viable to end U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. One prediction estimates that alternative energy will only account for 12 percent of supply. Coal consumption may actually increase.
- Current Reality: Federal budget cuts are endangering dozens of clean energy projects and the federal loan guarantees that are currently funding cleantech innovation.
- Outlook: The UN projects that 2.7 billion people will face severe water shortages by 2025 if consumption continues at current rates. Today, it’s estimated that 1.7 billion people – or about a third of the world’s population – live with occasional water shortages. By 2025, the world’s population is expected to be 7.9 billion, so it’s unlikely that current consumption rates can be maintained.
- Current Reality: The EPA’s Land and Water Conservation budget just got slashed 33 percent.
- Outlook: Greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries, including China and India, are expected to surge up to 70 percent, creating increasingly frequent and severe heat waves, rising sea levels and decreased food production across the planet.
- Current Reality: The current budget bill cuts climate change program funding across multiple federal agencies by 13 percent, or more than $49 million.
So what does this all mean? First of all, this is not a mandated outcome – it can change. We can change it. But it’s the best thinking of some of the best minds on the planet, so it’s wise to pay attention and start making some plans. Plans that are based on scarce resources, astronomical energy costs, international governmental destabilization as the global economic power shifts from West to East, following the sources of abundant energy, and a bulging population.
Never before has corporate social responsibility meant so much. Never before have we asked so much of companies – as politicians remain gridlocked, as systems crumble under the strain of overuse, and as we face the unintended consequences of our past actions.
And never before have we needed a hero more than now. I believe it’s up to corporate America to decide: will your company rise to the challenge or will you continue to do business as usual until that becomes impossible? The answer to that question may not only determine your company’s long-term success, it may also impact its short-term prosperity if your customers/consumers begin to take action/make decisions based on the seriousness of our collective situation. After all, we can’t simply rely on hope as a strategy.