The majority of UK homes are rented
By 2032, house prices in the UK have become so unaffordable that the majority of people are forced to take rented accommodation.* This trend first began to emerge during the Blair years of the late 90s and early 2000s. It could be argued, however, that the problem originated as far back as 1980,* when the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher passed the Housing Act. This led to a fall in socially rented housing – as council tenants were given the legal right to buy, at a large discount, the home they were living in – while councils were prevented from reinvesting most of the proceeds from these sales into building new homes.* Many tenants who had purchased these council flats later profited from them as buy-to-let landlords* – effectively subsidised by taxpayers – or sold them to speculators, investors and property firms. About 1.5 million council homes were sold by 2003 and this figure had reached 2 million by 2015.
A failure to construct enough new homes,** combined with rapid population growth (especially from immigration),* resulted in a serious lack of supply during the early 21st century. Other factors included changes in the employment landscape, a rise in the number of students, later marriage and rising separation rates. Having been relatively stable for most of the 20th century, the average cost of a UK home rose from £50K in 1995 to £184K by 2007.* During this same period, mortgage payments as a percentage of income soared from 18% to more than 50%.* The problem was compounded by stagnant wage growth (below inflation), a decline in the level of household savings (from 16% in the early 90s, to just 6% within two decades) and tighter lending requirements in the aftermath of the Great Recession.*
Subsequent attempts to rectify the situation included policies such as the "Help to Buy" scheme, but these only exacerbated the problem by creating artificially inflated demand.* The fundamental issue was lack of supply – but government funding and policies came nowhere near close enough to addressing this point with only a tinkering around the edges to boost housing stock. Because of these failures, less than half – 49% – of UK households are homeowners by 2032 – the first time since the early 70s that a majority of people are renting. One-third of households are now renting privately, twice as many as in 2015. London and the southeast of England have been particularly affected, due to a massive influx of foreign billionaires pouring money into the region and pushing up land values. The gap between rich and poor – and between the younger and older generations* – has now grown to be wider than ever, creating an ever more polarised and unequal society.*
Britain's ash trees have been wiped out by a fungal disease
Ash dieback, caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea,* killed huge numbers of trees from the mid-1990s onwards, particularly in eastern and northern Europe. Up to 90% of ash trees were affected in Denmark. The fungus was first scientifically described in 2006.
It was discovered in the UK during 2012, initially only on imported nursery stock, but in October of that year it was found on trees at two sites of established woodland in the East Anglia region. This occurred despite clear warnings from ecologists and foresters that imports of seedlings from the continent should be banned in case of infection.*
Despite efforts to contain the disease, it was impossible to stop.* Within a few weeks, Chalara fraxinea was confirmed in dozens of other locations. Over the next two decades, it spread throughout the country, wiping out most of the 90 million ash trees in Britain.*
Many plant species, birds and other animals dependent upon the trees for survival were also lost,* at a time when their numbers were already in sharp decline.** With ash trees forming a significant proportion of the UK's woodland, an eerie silence is descending on many areas of countryside, with birdsongs and other wildlife becoming ever rarer.
Leatherback sea turtles are on the verge of extinction
Growing up to seven feet (two metres) long and exceeding 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms), leatherbacks are the largest turtles on Earth. They can dive to depths of nearly 4,000 feet and make trans-Pacific migrations from Indonesia to the U.S. Pacific coast and back again. These ancient reptiles are the only remaining members of a family of turtles with evolutionary roots going back 100 million years.
After mating at sea, females come ashore during the breeding season to nest. At night, they excavate a hole in the sand, depositing around 80 eggs. This is filled with sand, making detection by predators difficult, before the mother turtle returns to the sea.
Once common throughout the world, their population declined rapidly during the 20th century and into the 21st. At the Jamursba Medi Beach in Papua Barat, Indonesia – accounting for 75 percent of total sightings in the western Pacific – nest numbers plummeted from a peak of 14,455 in 1984 to a low of 1,532 in 2011.
Several major problems faced leatherback turtles: nesting beach predators, such as pigs and dogs that were introduced to the islands, eating the turtle eggs; rising sand temperatures that killed the eggs or prevented the production of male hatchlings; the danger of being caught by fisheries during migrations; and harvesting of adults and eggs for food by islanders.* Plastic debris, mistaken for their favourite food (jellyfish) was another problem. Some individuals were found to have ingested almost 11 pounds (5 kilograms) of plastic into their stomachs.
China's space station is deorbited
China's first space station has reached the end of its 10-year lifespan.* After a decade of onboard research, it is abandoned and sent into a decaying orbit. A new, larger and more advanced space station is now in the process of being constructed.
generation nuclear power
this date, 4th generation nuclear power plants are commercially available.* They utilise a system of small balls, rather than large fuel rods. They
are a major improvement over previous generations, for the following
- It is
physically impossible for them to have a runaway chain reaction, as
happened with Chernobyl. No error, human or otherwise, will ever produce
uranium fuel is only 9% enriched. This makes it impossible to be used
in terrorist nuclear weapons.
nuclear waste is much easier to dispose of.
are highly economical. Electricity can be generated more cheaply than
oil or gas power, even when the decommissioning costs of the stations
are taken into account.
reasons, nuclear power becomes a lucrative industry from the 2030s onwards.
China and India, in particular, take advantage of this enhanced power
wind power has greater long term potential, however, due to the finite
supply of uranium.
One-third of Saudi Arabia's electricity comes from solar
In 2012, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had only 0.003 gigawatts of installed solar energy capacity. More than half of its electricity was produced from burning oil. By 2032, it has 41 gigawatts of installed solar energy, accounting for a third of the nation's 121 gigawatts total energy demand.* Around 25 gigawatts is produced by solar thermal plants, which use mirrors to focus energy from the sun on heating fluids which in turn run turbines. The other 16 gigawatts is provided by massive photovoltaic farms. This has been a result of considerable foreign investment as well as the wealth produced by fossil fuels, totalling just over $100 billion. Though several other countries have more extensive solar infrastructure, this has easily been one of the most ambitious projects, especially considering Saudi Arabia's old position as the world's largest exporter of crude oil.
The enormous expanses of desert, as well as measurably more intense sunlight in the equatorial regions, gives the country a huge amount of room to expand further. Even larger projects are now planned. Construction is also underway on high voltage cables connecting Saudi Arabia to neighbouring countries and some in Southern Europe. Eventually, this will be expanded to include all of Europe and Northern Africa.* Alongside solar, another 21 gigawatts is generated by a combination of nuclear, wind, and geothermal power.* Through nuclear cooperation agreements with China, France, South Korea and Argentina, Saudi Arabia has now constructed 16 new nuclear reactors.* Longer term, the country has further ambitions to be powered entirely by renewables. Much of the oil industry in Saudi Arabia is now transitioning away from energy production to the manufacture of plastics and polymers.*
These developments, coupled with the fact that it remains one of the wealthiest countries in the region, are helping Saudi Arabia transition to a more sustainable long-term future. However, the reality of the situation has forced the government to drastically cut back oil exports.* The Middle East, as a whole, has descended further towards chaos in recent years, as both demand and supply diminish for its key export.* A strong military, ties to the West, and extensive desalination infrastructure have allowed Saudi Arabia to remain relatively stable for the time being.
SolarGIS © 2012 GeoModel Solar s.r.o.
internet speeds are commonplace
to the benefits resulting from Web 4.0, connection
speeds have also vastly improved. Bandwidth has been growing by roughly
50% each year. Many homes and offices in the developed world now have a terabit
connection.* Some of these connections are now appearing on people themselves,
in the form of implantable devices.
Britain has upgraded its nuclear-armed submarine fleet
Britain was the third country (after the U.S. and the Soviet Union) to test an independently developed nuclear weapon, in 1952. From 1969 onwards the country always had at least one ballistic-missile submarine on patrol, creating a nuclear deterrent that the Defence Council described in 1980 as "effectively invulnerable to pre-emptive attack".
Until the 1990s, Britain had deployed a variety of nuclear weapons on Royal Navy carriers, V bombers and other aircraft around the world. However, these were gradually withdrawn. The retirement of the WE.177, in both air-dropped free-fall and depth charge versions, was the final stage of this decommissioning process, in 1998. This left a group of four Vanguard submarines (armed with Trident II D5s) as Britain's only nuclear weapons platform. Britain retained a stockpile of about 215 thermonuclear warheads, with 120 operational as of 2016.
A decision to renew the Trident-armed submarines was made in 2006, with Prime Minister Tony Blair warning that it would be "unwise and dangerous" for Britain to give up its nuclear weapons. Although the Cold War had ended, the UK still needed nuclear weapons, said Blair, as no-one could be sure another nuclear threat would not emerge in the future. He outlined plans to spend up to £20bn on a new generation of submarines for Trident missiles.
However, the Trident programme was to prove highly controversial, with costs escalating considerably. This was an especially divisive topic in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and the subsequent years of austerity and cuts to public services. By 2016, the Ministry of Defence had revised the cost of building, testing and commissioning the replacement vessels to £31 billion (plus a contingency fund of £10 billion) over 35 years, about 6 per cent of defence spending every year. Nevertheless, MPs voted to back the renewal in a vote of 472 to 117. Alongside this programme, the government reiterated its commitment to multilateral nuclear disarmament, promising to reduce Britain's stockpile of nuclear warheads to 180 by the mid-2020s.
Trident was based on the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction – it aimed to deter a nuclear attack on Britain by guaranteeing a retaliatory strike against any potential aggressor. After succeeding David Cameron as Prime Minister, one of Theresa May's first jobs was to write a "letter of last resort" authorising the use of Trident missiles in the event of such a nightmare scenario. Each of the Vanguard submarines contained a safe with one of these sealed letters, which of course it was hoped would never have to be used. David Cameron's previous letters were destroyed.
Previously named Successor class, it was announced in October 2016 that the new submarines would be renamed as the Dreadnought class. After the parliamentary vote on the upgrade programme, construction began soon afterwards.* The first new submarine would begin operation by 2028 and the existing fleet of Vanguard submarines is phased out by 2032,* after more than 40 years of service. Each missile is 13 m (44 ft) long, weighing 58.5 tons (130,000 lb), with a range of 11,300 kilometres (7,000 mi), a top speed of 18,030 mph (29,020 km/h) (Mach 24) and target accuracy to within a few feet.
Despite its diminishing power in the world, Britain retains a nuclear deterrent for long into the future and plays a key role in maintaining global security. Dreadnought-class submarines remain in service until the 2060s,* by which time they are replaced by automated and crewless vessels.
Dreadnought-class submarine, 2030s.