A century of droughts, floods and crop failures

Published: 13 November 2014 at 11:47

Dr Aled Jones of Anglia Ruskin outlines chilling scenario in new ISSA report

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By 2060 social security systems across the world may function almost entirely to cope with natural disasters and emergencies, according to a new report.

As part of the International Social Security Association (ISSA) Social security and megatrends publication, Dr Aled Jones of Anglia Ruskin University describes the significant impact that limited natural resources and climate change will have over the rest of the 21st century.

The scenario was developed as part of the ISSA publication to explore potential impacts on social security, alongside demographic trends, that need to be factored into government strategies to ensure that these future emerging risks are managed.

Looking back from the year 2100, Dr Jones describes a bleak history of oil embargoes, crop failures, increased mental health problems, mass migration and widespread flooding.

Dr Jones, Director of Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, writes:

“After early investments in alternative fossil fuel extraction, for example through hydraulic fracking or deep-ocean drilling, there was an immediate boost to some economies following lower energy prices.
“When global resource limits became apparent, short-term political issues impacted on the availability of a scarce resource.  For example, embargoes on oil exports by some countries were put in place at different times throughout the century.
“By the middle of the century increased domestic water competition in some countries resulted in the closure of several fracking sites.  Despite some increase in productivity in agriculture, climate change led to another long-term drought in key global breadbaskets, combined with catastrophic flooding in others.
“In the short term, there was a small decline in mortality rates globally because of a reduction in cold winter deaths due to temperature increases from climate change.  In most developed countries, the political weight of ageing populations and a relative fall in standards of living, combined with a reticence by governments to increase retirement ages in line with ageing trends, resulted in reduced GDP growth rates.
“Urbanisation continued globally, with lower birth rates seen in urban areas, which somewhat alleviated the anticipated problem of population growth.  However, towards the end of the century climate impacts were significantly impacting mortality rates everywhere.  Extreme weather events were much more common and the treatment of mental health problems, in particular depression, became increasingly difficult to financially sustain.
“Coastal flooding caused the relocation of populations and infrastructure for large cities on every continent, in particular the new mega cities, although the majority of this movement was within countries.”

According to the scenario set out by Dr Jones:

“Between 2020 and 2040 the financial burden of social security was focused on meeting legacy pension demands prior to the substantial increases in retirement ages globally.  Limited resources meant a cut back in health spending, which had increased significantly up to 2020, leading to greater inequality and social conflict.
“Between 2040 and 2060 social security started to shift its focus to meeting urban environment health impacts and after 2060 social security systems were limited mostly to service calamity and emergency loans to meet rehabilitation needs following major events.”

The full report can be downloaded from the International Social Security Association website.  For more information about Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, visit www.anglia.ac.uk/gsi