Getting Ahead of the Curve — Global Trends 2040

During March 2021, The National Intelligence Council issued its quadrennial report on global trends. This year’s issue is Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World.  Global Trends assesses the key trends and uncertainties that will shape the strategic environment for the United States during the next two decades.  I found it a useful way to think about how civil society can contribute toward addressing some of these important trends.

If we are able to have Nature For Justice grow in the way we envision – by helping national partners help those most vulnerable to climate change adapt to become more resilient –  we believe we can help address some of these trends and reduce the negative consequences.

Below are a set of selected quotes from the report and our responses.

Selected Quotes: Global Trends 2040

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses and political cleavages in international institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations, and called into question countries ability and willingness to cooperate multilaterally to address common challenges beyond infectious disease, particularly climate change.”

N4J Thoughts

Hence the need to develop national-level organizations that have the trust of government and local communities. Many of these civil society organizations need technical help and resources to improve their ability to operate in the absence of international organizations.

“The impact [of climate change] will disproportionately fall on the developing world and poorer regions and intersect with environmental degradation to create new vulnerabilities and exacerbate existing risks to economic prosperity, food, water, health, and energy security.”

We need to act NOW as these effects are already disproportionally falling on vulnerable populations, especially women.

“As precipitation declines or becomes more erratic, population growth, economic development, and continued inefficient irrigation and agricultural practices will increase demand for water.”

Land use practices that protect forest, restore landscapes, and improve agricultural practices can create resilient communities and also contribute toward meeting the Paris climate goals.

“Rarely is climate change the sole or even primary driver of instability and conflict; however, certain socio-political and economic contexts are more vulnerable to climate sparks that ignite conflict.”

Living on the edge of subsistence + lack of technical advice/resources + inequity  = high probability to migrate, i.e., what’s to be lost?  We can address the social justice needs to keep people in place.

“High national debt, and associated debt servicing costs, could restrict the financial contribution that governments are able and willing to make toward global public goods and to address shared challenges, including global health and climate change.”

Other resources are needed. N4J acts as a bridge between investors, donors, and companies and these communities by bringing private capital to help.

“As global challenges such as extreme weather events and humanitarian crises intensify, building domestic resiliency to shocks and systemic changes will become a more important element of national power, as will a state’s ability and willingness to help other countries.” (My emphasis added.)

Domestic resiliency has to start at the community level.  A combination of policy, investment, and technical help can be used by ‘aggregators’ –  civil society groups working across communities to deliver change.  N4J was created to help them on this journey.


  • Peter Michel

    Peter has worked for years in environmental education and research in countries such as the Dominican Republic, South Korea, and China, at diverse organizations and NGOs. He specializes in qualitative research and approaches his work with the belief that innovation and collaboration at an unprecedented scale are necessary to confront the environmental threats facing the modern world.

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  • Hank Cauley

    An engineer who later got a business degree to achieve social and environmental justice through existing economic structures. He’s started or built many organizations and projects. Hank lives in Falls Church, VA, with his wife and is an avid bee-keeper.

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