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2055: Japan's Population Collapses, North Pole has Vanished, but Pakistan will be Rich...

Thursday, December 21, 2006 Posted: 03:27 PM JST

Japan's population is predicted to fall to less than 90 million by 2055 the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Wednesday. Japan now has close to 128 million inhabitants. The prediction is based on the assumption that the Japanese fertility rate remains as it was in 2005, when the average Japanese woman gave birth to 1.26 children during her lifetime.

In earlier forecasts the fertility rate was believed to recover to 1.39. According to the new estimate, by 2055 Japanese aged 65 or older will make up 41 percent of the total population. Those 14 or younger will comprise only about 8 percent.

Unless drastic changes are made in society, the impact on the country's social welfare systems and economy will be enormous.

Forecasting the future is a tricky business, of course. Especially when it concerns notoriously unpredictable people. Yet, that is no reason to throw all forecasts in the garbage can as useless. Especially not, as we are already seeing the first signs of some of these forecasts becoming reality. It is deeply disturbing. Consider these news reports of the past few weeks:

Bloomberg: Japan's labor force is projected to shrink 33 percent by 2050, a legacy of a three-decade slowdown in the country's population growth.

Reuters: Global warming could melt the Arctic's ice during the summer as early as 2040, raising serious environmental as well as commercial and strategic issues, experts said on Monday.

Reuters: Losses from extreme weather could top $1 trillion in a single year by 2040, a partnership of the United Nations Environment Programme and private finance institutions (UNEP FI) warned on Tuesday.

Center for Economic and Policy Research: If, by 2050, the world works as many hours as do Americans it could
consume 15-30 percent more energy than it would following Europe. The additional carbon emissions
could result in 1 to 2 degrees Celsius in extra global warming.

Discover Magazine: Research unveiled today is projecting that by the year 2050, all current fish and seafood species will collapse. The report is the work of 12 researchers worldwide and is published in this week's edition of the journal Science.

The Courier-Journal: British scientists are saying that, by 2050, airplane emissions could be one the world�s leading contributors to global warming.

The Australian: Developing countries are projected to emit more than 60 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with China forecast to be the biggest emitter by 2010 and India the third-largest.

BBC: The vast Indo-Gangetic plain produces about 15% of the world's wheat - but the area suitable for growing is forecast to shrink by about half over the next 50 years, even as the number of mouths to feed increases.

Korea Times: Korea is expected to be the most aged country in the world as senior citizens over 65 will account for about 38 percent of the population in 2050, higher than the average 26 percent of other developed countries. (Hey, don't these guys read newspapers? That is still below Japan's forecasted 41 percent)

China Daily: A research report by the Deutsche Bank estimated that every 100 workers would have to support 79 retirees in 2050 if China does not change the current limits on the retirement age... The ageing problem exists in many countries other than China, but most developed countries have an annual GDP of between US$5,000 and US$10,000 for each of its citizens. In contrast, China only had an annual GDP of US$1,700 per capita last year. It will experience an ageing population before it becomes affluent.

Mongabay.com: Australia's Great Barrier Reef could lose 95 percent of its living coral by 2050 should ocean temperatures increase by the 1.5 degrees Celsius projected by climate scientists.

Hawaii Reporter: If 9 billion people in 2050 used energy at the rate that Americans do today, the world would have to generate 102.2 TW of power�more than seven times current production. If people adopted the energy lifestyle of Western Europe, power production would need to rise to 45.5 terawatts.

But let's end on a positive note:

Daily Times, Pakistan: The largest economies in 2050 will include China, USA, India, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Indonesia, Nigeria, Korea, Italy, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Philippines, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh.

China, USA, India, Japan, Brazil, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Korea, Italy, Canada, Russia, Turkey. No terribly big surprises here. But Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Philippines, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh? Let's hope that this is one forcast that does come true. And let's work hard on making sure that most of the other ones do not.

More predictions for the future: Sigma Scan

Keywords: national_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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