Multiple Trends Bring Increased Global Economic Instability

Internally Displaced Persons Trend

Data for chart provided by Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). See Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2010, March 2011.


In the broader sense, the biggest question is whether we will be able to feed the world’s population going forward and how much it is going to cost us. Falling yields over the last few decades are raising concerns that current agricultural techniques are nearing their natural limit for productivity.

Global Economic Outlook Q2 2011: Navigating a world of turmoil, Deloitte Research, 2011.


Disasters and Catastrophes 1970-2010

Chart source: Natural catastrophes and man made disasters in 2010, Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd


“The already stressed resource sector will be further complicated and, in most cases, exacerbated by climate change … Technological advances and policy decisions around the world … are likely to determine whether the globe’s temperature ultimately rises more than 2 degree centigrade—the threshold at which effects are thought to be no longer manageable.

For various reasons the US appears better able than most to absorb those shocks, but US fortunes also ride on the strength and resiliency of the entire international system, which we judge to be more fragile and less prepared for the implications of obvious trends like energy security, climate change, and increased conflict, let alone surprises.”

Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, National Intelligence Council, PDF version, November 2008


“Since the publication of the April 2011 Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR), financial risks have risen for three reasons … Third, notwithstanding some recent pullback in risk appetite, the prolonged period of low interest rates may push investors into riskier assets in a “search for yield.” This trend has the potential to build financial imbalances for the future, particularly in some emerging markets.

Global Financial Stability Report Market Update, International Monetary Fund,  Updated: June 20, 2011


Perhaps it is only a coincidence that the number of man-made disasters peaked just before the U.S. financial system went on life support and its troubles kicked off the Great Recession of 2008-09.  Perhaps it’s not.

In a world in which global markets and global investment flows tie each of us to everyone else, anything that happens is likely to bump into and jar everything else. Disruptive weather events, disruptive economic events, transformative investment shifts, and disruptive political events are not unconnected.

Thomas Friedman tells us the world is hot, flat, and crowded.  It is also becoming increasingly susceptible to spasms of destructive instability as global trends more frequently generate destabilizing conjunctures of economically costly events.

The world does not have adequate systems of governance for managing these destabilizing conjunctures, so as the world gets hotter, flatter, and more crowded, the more devastating these spasms of instability will be.