The World in 2050

Caitlin Dempsey


Dr. Laurence Smith, a professor with the Department of Geography at UCLA, has a new book out called “The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future.” (Release date of September 23, 2010).

Four forces of climate change

In his book, Dr. Smith predicts that, “As worldwide population increases by 40 percent over the next 40 years, sparsely populated Canada, Scandinavia, Russia and the northern United States will become formidable economic powers and migration magnets.”  

Smith looks at what he calls the four forces of climate change, the anticipated toll worldwide of a growing and aging population, dwindling natural resources at a time of mounting demand, and increasing globalism and economic integration.  

He predicts that global warming will unlock oil, gas, water and other natural resources in what he calls the NORCs (northern rim countries); those changes in the environment will result in the following benefits for NORCS:

  • New shipping lanes will open during the summer in the Arctic, allowing Europe to realize its 500-year-old dream of direct trade between the Atlantic and the Far East, and resulting in new access to and economic development in the north.
  • Oil resources in Canada will be second only to those in Saudi Arabia, and the country’s population will swell by more than 30 percent, a growth rate rivaling India’s and six times faster than China’s.
  • NORCs will be among the few place on Earth where crop production will likely increase due to climate change.
  • NORCs collectively will constitute the fourth largest economy in the world, behind the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), the European Union, and the United States.
  • NORCs will become the envy of the world for their reserves of fresh water, which may be sold and transported to other regions.

Dr. Smith started thinking about the direction of the northern economies after a 15-month project to look at affect of global warming on the northern rim.

“I kept badgering people for stories about climate change,” Smith said. “They’d sigh and oblige me, but then say, ‘There’s also this oil plant going up behind me’ or ‘All these Filipino immigrants are pouring in.’ Within about two months, I realized there is a lot more going on up there besides climate change. Climate change is a critical threat to many people, but it isn’t the sole development in their lives.”

Read more:

The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future – Dr. Laurence C. Smith

Global warming’s silver lining: Northern countries will thrive, grow – UCLA Newsroom

Map of NORCs The eight nations depicted in this map consistute the New North, a region that will become increasingly prominent. From “The World in 2050” by Laurence C. Smith. Reprinted by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) 2010.

Disclaimers: This site contains affiliate links to products. When you buy something through our retail links, we earn an affiliate commission.  The editor of GIS Lounge, Caitlin Dempsey, has known Laurence Smith since she was a graduate student at UCLA.


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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