Friday, January 2, 2009

Highlights and Lessons for Hawaii from "Global Trends 2025"

The Global Trends 2025 report is a must-read for all policy makers, company executives, regional planners, long-term strategists and concerned global citizens. Some of the expectations expressed in the report are quite relevant to Hawaii as they present likely challenges or opportunities. Here is a list of my highlights:


The United States will remain the single most powerful country but will be less dominant.

Growth projections for Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRICs) indicate they will collectively match the original G-7’s share of global GDP by 2040 to 2050.

A global multipolar system is emerging with the rise of BRIC. Indonesia, Iran, and Turkey are likely to be large regional players.

Shift in relative wealth and economic power is occurring from West to East.

Global markets are expected to recede.

Regionalism may solidify in three blocks: North America, Europe and East Asia. This, among other things, may undermine the goals of World Trade Organization (WTO) or international agreements (Kyoto protocol.) Regionalism may lead to regional product standards for information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, intellectual property rights, and other aspects of the “new economy”.

Resource issues will gain prominence on the international agenda. Strategic resources, energy, food, water. This gives rise to local, regional, national and global sustainability.


1.2 billion more people by 2025 will put pressure on energy, food, and water resources.

Climate change likely occurs but the locations and severity of its impacts are highly uncertain. Largest near term threat is drought or limited water supply in some regions.

Demography (low birth rate and fewer young paying the pensions of many old people) are major challenges for Europe and Japan. Will they have a sufficient number of workers to support robust economies?

Increase in oil and commodity prices have generated windfall profits for the Gulf states and Russia, but it is hard to predict the long term outlook of fossil energy use and pricing because…

…. energy transition away from oil is occurring rapidly to national gas, coal and solar, and more slowly in other areas such as improved energy storage, biofuels, hydrogen, clean coal and other alternatives. New energy technologies probably will not be commercially viable and widespread by 2025.

All current technologies are inadequate for replacing the traditional energy architecture on the scale needed.

Photovoltaic and wind energy, and improvements in battery technology are the most likely platforms for quick and inexpensive energy transitions.

Large scale solutions may come from individual projects enabling many small economic entities to develop their own energy transformation projects, such as fuel cells powering homes and office.

An energy transition is inevitable; the only questions are when and how abruptly or smoothly such a transition occurs.

New technologies provide solutions to overcome food and water constrains.

Lack of access to stable supplies of water is reaching critical proportions in some areas. The problem will worsen because of rapid urbanization. China is a prime example.

  • Brazil, Russia, India, and China are new and largely untapped markets for Hawaii, for tourism and other alliances. Initiatives to these markets are necessary to counter Japan’s likely shrinking economy.
  • Climate change maybe less of a threat to Hawaii as its primary short term effect, drought, is not a likely issue for Hawaii. Sea level change, if confirmed in magnitudes of a few feet above high tide, has the potential to devastate Hawaii’s beaches, shorelines, areas such as Kakaako and Mapunapuna, and some critical highways.
  • Hawaii is a near perfect test bed for solar and wind energy research and development, in addition to ocean and geothermal. Through the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and other efforts, Hawaii has a rich knowledge base and experience on biofuels, clean carbon and other renewable alternatives. (By the way, there is wide agreement among experts that ethanol from corn is a counterproductive endeavor. It is time to repeal the state law that forces Hawaii to import corn ethanol from the mainland.)
  • Production of adequate food supply for our local demand is a long lost battle in Hawaii, so sustainable transpacific transportation of foods, staples and industrial products is a priority in order to sustain life for 1.3 million residents and roughly 100,000 tourists (per day.)