U.S. intelligence officials are painting a dark picture of the world's future, writing in a report released Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic has deepened economic inequality, strained government resources and fanned nationalist sentiments.
Those assessments are included in a Global Trends report by the government's National Intelligence Council, a document produced every four years. This year's report is designed to help policymakers and citizens anticipate the economic, environmental, technological and demographic forces likely to shape the world through the next 20 years.
The document focuses heavily on the impact of the pandemic, calling it the “most significant, singular global disruption since World War II, with health, economic, political, and security implications that will ripple for years to come.”
Nations in different parts of the world set new records Thursday for COVID-19 deaths and new infections, underscoring the lingering global toll of the virus.
“COVID-19 has shaken long-held assumptions about resilience and adaptation and created new uncertainties about the economy, governance, geopolitics, and technology,” the report says.
The document finds cause for concern in virtually all aspects of life.
It warns, for instance, that the effects of climate change are likely to worsen the problem of food and water insecurity in poor countries and hasten global migration. Though health, education and household prosperity have made historic improvements in recent decades, continued progress will be hard to sustain because of “headwinds” not only from the effects of the pandemic but also aging populations and “potentially slower global economic growth.”
Advances in technology have the potential to address problems including climate change and disease, but can also provoke new tensions, the report says.
“State and nonstate rivals will vie for leadership and dominance in science and technology with potentially cascading risks and implications for economic, military, and societal security,” the report says.
The report also warns of eroding trust in government and institutions and of a “trust gap” between the general public and the better informed and educated parts of the population.
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