The National Intelligence Council prepared this report "to stimulate strategic
thinking about the future by identifying key trends, the factors that drive them, where
they seem to be headed, and how they might interact. It uses scenarios to illustrate some
of the many ways in which the drivers examined in the study (e.g., globalization,
demography, the rise of new powers, the decay of international institutions, climate
change, and the geopolitics of energy) may interact to generate challenges and
opportunities for future decisionmakers. The study as a whole is more a description of
the factors likely to shape events than a prediction of what will actually happen."
The executive summary states, " The international system—as constructed following the Second World War—will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, an historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing influence of nonstate actors. By 2025, the international system will be a global multipolar one with gaps in national power2 continuing to narrow between developed and developing countries.
Concurrent with the shift in power among nation-states, the relative power of various nonstate
actors—including businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and criminal networks—is
increasing. The players are changing, but so too are the scope and breadth of transnational issues important for continued global prosperity. Aging populations in the developed world; growing energy, food, and water constraints; and worries about climate change will limit and diminish what will still be an historically unprecedented age of prosperity.
Historically, emerging multipolar systems have been more unstable than bipolar or unipolarones. Despite the recent financial volatility—which could end up accelerating many ongoing trends—we do not believe that we are headed toward a complete breakdown of the international system, as occurred in 1914-1918 when an earlier phase of globalization came to a halt. However, the next 20 years of transition to a new system are fraught with risks. Strategic rivalries are most likely to revolve around trade, investments, and technological innovation and acquisition, but we cannot rule out a 19th century-like scenario of arms races, territorial expansion, and military rivalries."