The Water Wars and Urban Sprawl of 2030S

The year 2030 is only 17 short years away. (Wow. I can remember when it was 25 years away.) What will the world be like in 2030? According to a new "Global Trends" report from the US National Intelligence office—a deeply researched report provocative in its predictions which will, in all likelihood, be ignored, like most government reports, only to be dusted off when it becomes a useful tool for scapegoating someone after a crisis—the world of 2030 will be urban, dangerous, and decidedly not ruled by America.

The most headline-grabbing takeaway from the report was probably this: "The US, European, and Japanese share of global income is projected to fall from 56 percent today to well under half by 2030." The age of American (and Western) dominance is ending. But this is not really news—the rise of China, India, Brazil, Russia, and other emerging nations has been closely watched for years. The more interesting prediction to contemplate is our world's final shift into a definitively urban place to live:

In a tectonic shift, today's roughly 50-percent urban population (3.5 billion urban of the world's 7.1 billion people) will almost certainly climb to near 60 percent(4.9 billion of the world's projected 8.3 billion), a sharp contrast to the largely rural world of 1950, when roughly 30 percent (750 million) of the world's 2.5 billion were estimated to be urban residents

The next two decades' pattern of urban growth will look strikingly different from urban growth patterns of the late 20th century, dynamics that gave rise to most of today's 27 megacities (cities with a population greater than 10 million). Although UN demographers expect this count to continue to rise, these giants will, we believe, become further limited by physical land constraints and burdened by vehicular congestion and costly infrastructural legacies, entrenched criminal networks and political gridlock, and deteriorating sanitation and health conditions. The peri-urban or "rurban" areas will grow faster than city centers,as such areas provide cheaper land for housing and manufacturing. Metropolitan regions will spill over multiple jurisdictions creating mega-regions. By 2030, there will be at least 40 large bi-national and tri-national metro regions

In other words, the age of multinational urban sprawl is upon us. The positive effect of this: the global middle class will grow! The negative effect: widespread food shortages, and "nearly half the world's population will live in areas experiencing extreme water stress."

They also predict that "Individuals and small groups" will gain access to weapons technology that was once the province of states alone. So those worldwide water wars should be interesting.

[The full report. Image via DNI.]