By Jeremy Herb - 12/10/12 07:39 PM EST
The United States will no longer be a single global superpower by 2030 as economies in Asia grow larger than the U.S. and Europe, according to a new report from the U.S. intelligence community.
The report, by the National Intelligence Council, says that no country would replace the United States as the dominant superpower, and that the U.S. would remain “first among equals.”
But it also makes clear that demographic and economic trends will mark an end to the era in which the U.S. is a sole world power.
“Asia will have surpassed North America and Europe combined in terms of global power, based upon GDP, population size, military spending, and technological investment,” the report says. “China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030.”
The report notes several major shifts are coming, such as the rise of the middle class in the developing world to the wider access to lethal technologies like biological weapons.
The study predicts that the "current Islamist phase of terrorism might end by 2030, but terrorism is unlikely to die completely."
In addition, it estimates that the world’s population will become more urban as it climbs to 8.3 billion people from 7.1 billion in 2012. The report says 60 percent of people will live in urban environments by 2030, up from 50 percent today, and “the volume of urban construction for housing, office space, and transport services over the next 40 years could roughly equal the entire volume of such construction to date in world history.”
The study also predicts that the United States could become energy independent, thanks to hydraulic fracturing.
“Additional crude oil production through the use of 'fracking' drilling technologies on difficult-to-reach oil deposits could result in a big reduction in the U.S.-net trade balance and improved overall economic growth,” the report says.
The report lays out best- and worst-case scenarios for the next two decades, which it calls “fusion” and “stalled engines.”
The best-case scenario sees the United States, China and Europe finding issues to collaborate on, including helping to stop the spread of conflict in South Asia. GDPs and per capita incomes rise in both countries rapidly under this scenario, which the report says is rooted in technological innovation and collaboration.
In the worst-case prediction, economic pressures like the collapse of the Eurozone cause the United States and Europe to turn inward, and the U.S. energy revolution fails to materialize.
In the report, eight “black swans” are listed as potential events that would change the course of history, mostly in a negative way.
Among them are a severe pandemic, more rapid climate change or a nuclear or cyber attack using weapons of mass destruction.
There are also two positive events listed: the democratization of China and a reformed Iran.
“U.S. disengagement” is also on the list, where the report predicts “a collapse or sudden retreat of U.S. power probably would result in an extended period of global anarchy; no leading power would be likely to replace the United States as a guarantor of the international order.”