This is the time of year when some otherwise sensible people offer a prediction as to how the World’s economy will unfold during the forthcoming year. Such forecasts are perfectly harmless and perfectly useless because the evolution of the economy depends on events that cannot be predicted with the requisite accuracy.
For example, the Atlantic Island of La Palma, just off the northwest coast of Africa, periodically sheds a few trillion tons of congealed lava into the ocean setting off a tsunami of such destructiveness as to make the 2011 Japan tsunami look like a ripple on the surface of a puddle.
Such a wave, according to a BBC report would be
…far bigger than anything ever witnessed in modern times. It will surge across the entire Atlantic in a matter of hours, engulfing the whole US east coast, sweeping away everything in its path up to 20km inland. Boston would be hit first, followed by New York, then all the way down the coast to Miami and the Caribbean.
So there go your New York mega banks and with them the global financial system.
|Area of the US under ash after an eruption of the
And that’s not all that Americans have to worry about.
There’s Yellowstone, the World’s largest volcano. If that blows, it’s basically all over for the US economy — half the country would be buried in ash. And that would mean collapse of the Chinese since they’d have no one to print the money to buy all their stuff.
China itself could be the source of economic disturbance no less catastrophic. A place where people and pigs, fish and poultry live in close proximity and in huge numbers, China is where a hitherto insignificant virus may at this moment be switching hosts to cause a global pandemic that rivals the black death in global reach, lethality and economic impact.
|Plague victims, Martigues, France.|
China, though, may not represent the greatest threat as a source of the next pandemic. Dutch scientists have just reverse engineered bird flu to make it spread through the air. Let loose it could wipe out most of the World’s population, which would certainly mean a hit to global GDP.
“It only took a small number of mutations to change the avian flu virus,” said one of the scientists concerned.
We have discovered that this is indeed possible, and more easily than previously thought. In the laboratory, it was possible to change H5N1 into an aerosol-transmissible virus that can easily be rapidly spread through the air.
Oh, well done, chaps. The planet may be rid of this pesky creature Homo sapiens sooner than the most radical ecopolyptic environmentalist could hope.
But the chances of any of the above happening in 2012 is probably less than even, although a small to medium-sized nuclear war, starting in the Middle East seems far from improbable. More likely, though, we’ll get through with nothing much worse than the complete bankruptcy of half a dozen countries and the disappearance of most if not all of your pension and mine.