From a nuclear-armed Iran to waning American influence in Latin America to a disintegrating internet, the Atlantic Council previews the year ahead as part of its 2023 flagship Global Foresight project
WASHINGTON D.C. – DECEMBER 23 2022 – Today the Atlantic Council is releasing its annual list of the top risks and opportunities for the year ahead, the first installment in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security’s flagship Global Foresight project envisioning what the world will look like next year and over the coming decade.
The list of twelve risks and eleven opportunities for 2023, which includes a probability assessment for each scenario, draws on a forecasting exercise that the leaders of the Atlantic Council’s sixteen programs and centers—including former ambassadors, senior policymakers, and private-sector executives, as well as prominent experts across a range of regions and fields—conducted in late 2022.
Major forecasts for 2023 include:
- A high likelihood of Iran emerging as a nuclear-weapons state
- A strong possibility of an unintended consequence stemming from the recent international breakthrough on climate adaptation and the loss-and-damage fund: the world locking in at least 1.5 degrees of global warming because of backsliding on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions
- A higher probability of Ukraine winning its war against Russia and even Vladimir Putin losing power at home than of the United States and its allies giving up on Ukraine—despite the onset of winter, a global energy crisis, a shifting US political climate, and diminished Western military stockpiles
- A significant (if lower probability) risk of a crisis just short of war erupting over Taiwan, such as a major Chinese cyberattack or blockade against the island, with war itself a less likely prospect
- A considerable chance that two long-running concerns in Washington could finally materialize: the United States losing influence in Latin America and countries moving away from the dollar faster than anticipated
- A highly likely opportunity for Venezuelan oil to come online, helping to relieve the shortages driving up energy costs
What else should we watch for in the year ahead? Potential risks include:
- Democracies descend into instability: Many democratic countries are heading into 2023 with highly divided societies, shaky institutions, and question marks hanging over their political leaders. The repeated changes in leadership in the United Kingdom and Israel, and disputed elections in the United States and Brazil, could be ominous signs for the health of global democracy.
- The internet splits forever: Watch for a slow roll toward two internets: one designed to facilitate government control with built-in surveillance, and one that’s free, open, and secure—or at least trying to be.
- Support for Ukraine plummets: Though support has held steady thus far, several variables affect the resolve of US, European, and other allied governments—and voters—to continue paying the costs of arming Ukraine and isolating Russia over the coming year. Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats, energy prices and associated cost-of-living crises, and a looming recession all threaten the backing Ukraine needs to win the war.
Opportunities on the horizon:
- The transition away from fossil fuels hits an inflection point: 2023 could be a bellwether year for the energy transition—and net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions could be within sight by 2050 if we play our cards right.
- The European Union starts acting like a great power: After Russia’s invasion, and with more hawkish views on China in ascendance, Europeans broadly agree on the question of the EU’s relationship with power, even if the EU still lacks instruments for exercising hard power.
- Funding for climate resilience doubles: While countries pledged $230 million to help the places most vulnerable to a changing climate adapt at the 2022 UN climate summit, private investors on the sidelines discussed new ways to channel capital to cities and regions facing extreme heat.
Check out the full list here.