Humanity is facing major challenges
At the moment, there are already more than 7.5 billion people living on Earth. But by 2050, there will in all likelihood be 10 billion. Up to 85% of them will live in urban centers and megacities by 2050, up from 50% today. Even conservative estimates imply that the increase in world population will quadruple global GDP by 2050. So even if we have a large increase in energy efficiency, the IEA estimates that energy hunger will double by 2050.
If we continue to do business as we do now, this will mean a massive increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere and thus a further intensification of climate change with extreme weather and droughts. The increasing struggle for resources and water would trigger conflicts, which in turn would lead to refugee flows.
Technological solutions to satiate our energy hunger
But the good news is that this scenario does not have to come to pass. In fact, the technologies that can help us meet global challenges and enable qualitative growth already exist.
Even though the hunger for energy is huge, there are a variety of solutions: solar, wind, hydrogen, biomass and geothermal. There are already days when an economic powerhouse like Germany gets all its energy from renewable sources.
A decentralized and climate-neutral energy supply is made possible by the creation of smart grids, i.e. intelligent networks where energy can be transformed and stored.
Another future technology is synthetic fuels, where CO2 is recycled from the atmosphere during production.
In the future, energy could even be produced with huge solar panels in space and sent from there to Earth. All these sustainable technologies already exist and can be part of the solution to quenching our energy thirst.
The food of the future
But we also need to be able to feed ten billion people by 2050.
This requires sufficient water supply for agriculture. “WaterHarvest” is the keyword here. Water can be extracted from the air as dew even in arid regions such as the desert and thus used to irrigate agricultural land.
Israeli companies are leading the way in this technology, which has long been used to green deserts.
In the future, we will also increasingly grow food where it is consumed, i.e., in the cities themselves. So-called #UrbanAgriculture consists, among other things, of vertical farms, whereby vegetables and fruits are grown in a controlled manner and thus very efficiently on the outer walls of high-rise buildings or even inside them. This massively reduces water consumption as well as pesticide use. It also saves energy for transport, binds CO2 and at the same time creates a better climate in cities suffering from heat.
Another factor that will feed the world’s population even more in the future is the use of plant proteins, for example, to create meat substitutes. Meat can now also be grown from stem cells, which avoids killing animals and could also be more resource-efficient than fattening livestock in the future.
All these technologies will help us solve the global food problem.
New forms of production and sustainable industry
The production and delivery of goods will also be revolutionized in the future. #Automation and #ResourceEfficiency will make manufacturing more sustainable.
The industry of the future will not only function according to the motto “avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle”, but in addition, material cycles will be closed altogether, enabling a #circulareconomy. There is already a neighborhood in Amsterdam that relies entirely on this.
The technology of 3D printing also already exists. Instead of buying or ordering goods, in the future, people will be able to get the necessary blueprints for building blocks through the Internet and 3D-print them at home.
CO2 storage will also be part of the new sustainable economy. Some companies are already using CO2 to strengthen building materials such as concrete and storing it in this way. Carbon capture and storage is likely to become as big an industry in the future as the oil and gas industry used to be. In logistics, internationally, the new production facilities will be connected by logistical super-networks of autonomous trucks, freight trains and ships.
A more inclusive, communicative world
This all sounds like the future in 2050 will be more livable only for machines and robots. But it is consumers who will be able to benefit from tomorrow’s technologies and solutions. #SmartCities, which automatically control heat and air supply, will create a better living climate.
In the future, the Internet of Things will connect all electrical and electronic devices, so that an empty refrigerator can trigger an automatic order for online delivery, or heaters will work in perfect harmony with people and not simply heat through.
In general, people will be more connected than ever. The sharing Economy, the economy of sharing, makes it possible to make new acquaintances in a private cab or in an apartment rented online and to participate in discussion forums and networks that one would have had to search for laboriously in the past.
The autonomous driving will free up a lot of time because people will be able to pursue more enjoyable activities even on the highway. The traffic transition will drastically reduce waiting times in traffic jams.
All this will give us time to invest more in personal contacts, closeness and being human again.
The technologies to achieve the 2030 Agenda are already largely in place
Despite all the pessimistic scenarios, the technologies for solving the major challenges already exist today.
The shift in needs away from material products toward resource-saving alternatives will trigger an increasing demand for more sustainable products and, above all, services.
At the same time, governments are increasingly enacting incentives and support measures to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Investments in the trends of the future, which are determined and derived from the 2030 Agenda, will therefore pay off.