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Agenda-Setting Foresight

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Title: Blockchain: the internet(s) of tomorrow?
Approx. Reading Time: 17 minutes
Author: Kieron O'Hara

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Blockchain: the internet(s) of tomorrow?

Kieron O’Hara argues that the more exciting implementations of blockchain technology, with the libertarian valorisation of their open networks, are products of a particular techno-ideology. As a result, they are problematic and face formidable obstacles. However, less ambitious blockchain—which are closer to traditional databases—are far more useful for business.

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Title: Disinformation: chaos in high places
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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Disinformation: chaos in high places

Many political leaders and regulators frame disinformation as a technological problem that can only be solved by technological means and by curbing ‘big tech’. Peter Kingsley explores another possibility: what if disinformation is the modus operandi of some world leaders intent on causing chaos?

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Title: Climate Change: a new era of ‘turbulent’ risk?
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Laurie Laybourn-Langton

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Climate Change: a new era of ‘turbulent’ risk?

India and Pakistan’s recent heatwave is the latest sign we are entering a new era of chaotic, systemic risk brought about by the worsening environmental crisis, argues Laurie Laybourn-Langton. The continued failure to reduce global environmental harms means this will only intensify, threatening our collective ability to execute the rapid climate transition needed. Faster, better mitigation and adaptation strategies are essential.

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Title: The Ukraine War: geopolitics and climate policy
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes
Author: Simon Tilford

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The Ukraine War: geopolitics and climate policy

Simon Tilford argues that Russia’s war against Ukraine is unlikely to slow climate transformation in developed countries, but could put paid to a global climate change agreement and hit international trade and investment. Developing countries could conclude that they cannot afford to invest heavily in transformation, resulting in a world of clear climate winners and losers, with rising inequalities—of economic and in terms of climate security—leading to mass migration.

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Briefing

Britain: Europe’s ‘stagnation nation’?

Britain is experiencing an almost unprecedented decline in its economic and political standing. The closest analogy is probably with Italy over the last 20 years. However, Britain’s position may be more intractable because of a collective failure to acknowledge the underlying reasons for what is happening. Unless it does, a workable economic growth model will prove elusive.

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On Certainty

Track the philosophy of science and you find there is no absolute certainty, but a sense of purpose and values focused on an ever-deeper understanding of reality. In politics you enter a world of fiction, full of secret agendas and hidden intentions. Knowledge is secondary or even irrelevant. The cultural gap continues to widen, both a cause and a consequence of global leaders’ failure to confront reality.

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Keeping it Local: energy

Despite resistance from established energy players, energy localisation is inevitable as the cost of renewables and battery storage continues to fall and governments face increasing pressure to reduce fossil fuel use and boost energy security.

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Keeping it Local: food

As water and land become scarce and countries strive to reduce their carbon footprints, governments are looking for local solutions to a raft of problems, not least the need for sustainable agriculture.

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Title: Escalation Risk
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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Escalation Risk

The tragedy of the Russia-Ukraine war is only beginning and may escalate beyond the collective control of world leaders. Peter Kingsley explores how individual and collective failures of imagination lie behind recent catastrophic events, as they have in history. In a new kind of ‘hybrid’ war characterised by extreme complexity, uncertainty and speed, the risks of misinterpretation, miscalculation and human folly have never been greater.

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Title: Openness: efficiency versus resilience?
Approx. Reading Time: 11 minutes
Author: Simon Tilford

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Openness: efficiency versus resilience?

A retreat from globalisation is sometimes portrayed in apocalyptic terms. However, not all forms of openness matter equally. There can be a trade-off between openness and the ability of government to meet domestic demands, such as for security and fairness, or rapid climate transformation. How much openness is essential, and how much we could live without, is one of the most pressing questions of our time. Simon Tilford explores the issue by looking at trade in goods and services, as well as flows of capital, data and people.

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Title: Climate Change: ‘What is to be done?’
Approx. Reading Time: 11 minutes
Author: Tom Burke

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Climate Change: ‘What is to be done?’

Technological innovation alone will not be enough to address climate change, Tom Burke explains. We also need regulatory innovation to shape the energy and other markets of the future, and legal innovation to properly allocate responsibility for the damage caused by climate change across generations. Institutional innovation can help protect the independent bodies responsible for keeping the public informed on the state of the climate, while social innovation is needed to protect communities that house high carbon energy systems. Possibly most importantly of all, administrative innovation is required, to try avoid the actions of one part of society inadvertently compromising the efforts of the other parts.

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Title: Security Risk, Catastrophic Events and Synchronised Failures
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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Security Risk, Catastrophic Events and Synchronised Failures

Political leadership teams and decision-makers face urgent and growing risks to military security. Peter Kingsley explores how exponential rates of technological innovation, geopolitical instability, information asymmetries and global warming are creating extreme systemic risk.

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Briefing

US Midterms: a disaster for Biden’s presidency?

The Democrats are likely to lose their majorities of both Houses in November’s midterms. This bodes ill for Biden’s domestic agenda, from climate policy to gun control and abortion, and also for Western unity vis-a-vis Russia. A weakened Biden could struggle to hold together a group of countries already suffering from Ukraine fatigue.

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China to Pay a Heavy Price for Disengagement

If China disengages from the global system, it faces several major risks. It could further depress the country’s already declining economic growth potential, and in turn undermine its position in the battle against the US for the world’s hearts and minds.

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Stewardship and Intangibles

Policymakers, corporate strategists and asset managers face daunting challenges, confronted by ‘edge of chaos’ conditions and the urgent need to create breakthrough inventions to meet fast-changing and uncertain environmental, societal and market needs. Ideas and intangible assets dominate valuations, yet intellectual property remains secondary to strategists constrained by short-term thinking and stewardship failures.

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King Dollar: benign or malign?

A surging dollar, falling stock prices and tightening credit markets. Is this the start of a benign correction, or the beginning of a period of international turbulence? For it to be benign the dollar will need to stop rising, and the US economy will need to avoid recession.

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The French Election: populism still rising

Macron’s victory was met with a sigh of relief across Western capitals. However, dissonance between technocratic parties of government and populists from the left and right continue to grow in France, with Le Pen, Zemmour, and Mélanchon feeding off and perpetuating a sense of gloom and pessimism.

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Briefing

The End of Dollar Dominance?

The freezing of Russia’s international dollar reserves following its invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the centrality of the US currency to the global financial system. There has been speculation that this could finally turn investors against the currency, but there are compelling reasons why it will continue to reign supreme. Change could eventually come, but it might well be the US itself that calls time on the dollar age.

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NATO: relic, revived, or reimagined?

NATO has confounded both its critics and Vladimir Putin with a united response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the war has also highlighted how poorly placed NATO is to deal with the seriousness of the new threats to European security. Failure to reform NATO could have far-reaching implications for both Europe and the rest of the world.

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Ending Plastics Pollution

Plastics pollution is disrupting ecosystems and threatening biodiversity everywhere on the planet. Eliminating unnecessary materials and reusing what we need offers a partial solution, but breakthrough technologies are essential. Thankfully, there are some positive developments.

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New World Chaos

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has raised the spectre of long-term geostrategic chaos dominated by war and conflict, a volatile climate, biosphere failures, food and water shortages, mass migration, revolution, and failed states. The geostrategic contours of a new world are emerging in a media environment saturated with destruction, just as the IPCC highlights that risks will cascade.

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War and Economics: the scenarios

Events and how governments, firms and households react to them will determine the economic outlook, and it is unclear which way those events will fall. Models provide few insights because they are poor at capturing uncertainty and tend to assume that things revert quickly to ‘business as usual’. This is possible, but other scenarios have momentum.

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Briefing

War in Europe: all change

The writing may have long been on the wall for those who wanted to see it, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine still upends many assumptions regarding national security and geopolitics, and hence over trade, investment and climate policy. There are big uncertainties over where we are heading, but change there will be.

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Briefing

Ukraine: beware the complacency of markets

Markets are assuming that conflict between Russia and NATO is avoided and that Western sanctions, combined with Russia’s need for revenue, allow for the continued trade in gas and other commodities. This may prove right, but other, more damaging outcomes, are also possible.

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Briefing

Shipping Forecasts

As the shipping industry adapts to security threats surrounding the Ukraine crisis, it also faces a longer-term reckoning, having been slow to anticipate the growing impact of customer and public demands for ‘net-zero’ strategies. Pressure is growing for urgent action, but clean fuels are some way off, and there is a catch: lower industry emissions will reduce atmospheric aerosols, therefore increasing global temperatures.

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Briefing

World on a Precipice: two Ukraine scenarios

Whatever happens between Russia and Ukraine in the coming weeks, the repercussions will be far-reaching. If a full-scale Russian invasion takes place, it may precipitate a new Cold War. Acceding to some of Russia’s demands carries formidable risks too, but may prove less destabilising for European and global security.

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Energy: Mind the gap

High energy prices could be here to stay, creating serious political tensions and extending the life of fossil fuel capacity far into the future. If so, more governments might overcome their reservations about nuclear energy. The more innovation there is in the sector, the more likely this is to happen.

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Sustainable Cities

Cities are on the front line in the race to reduce climate change and biosphere risks, and avoid the ‘too little, too late’ scenario. The planet’s future depends largely on the rate at which cities are transformed. They hold the key to long-term resilience and regeneration of the natural world.

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