• Pure Speculation

POLITICO: Experts Knew a Pandemic Was Coming. Here’s What They’re Worried About Next.

Nine disasters we still aren’t ready for.



You might feel blindsided by the coronavirus, but warnings about a looming pandemic have been there for decades. Government briefings, science journals and even popular fiction projected the spread of a novel virus and the economic impacts it would bring, complete often with details about the specific challenges the U.S. is now facing.


It makes you wonder: What else are we missing? What other catastrophes are coming that we aren’t planning for, but that could disrupt our lives, homes, jobs or our broader society in the next few years or decades?


It’s the government’s job to think about this: Every year, the intelligence community releases theWorldwide Threat Assessment—a distillation of worrisome global trends, risks, problem spots and emerging perils. But this year, the public hearing on the assessment, usually held in January or February, wascanceled, evidently because intelligence leaders, who usually testify in a rare open hearing together, were worried their comments would aggravate President Donald Trump. And the government has not yet publicly released a 2020 threat report.


What would it say? Since there’s been no public version, we’ve compiledour own here, reviewing numerous government and academic reports and speaking with more than a dozen thought leaders, including scientists, researchers and current and former national security and intelligence officials.


Domestic Threat Assessment


What follows is POLITICO Magazine’s “Domestic Threat Assessment”—a list of the most significant events that might impact the United States over the next 30 to 50 years. These are threats that seem rare, but that over a given period are almost guaranteed to occur—events that humans, and therefore political leaders, have a hard time understanding and planning for. Author Michele Wucker, a policy analyst who specializes in crises, calls them “gray rhinos,” in contrast to the unimaginable “black swan” events. Most of the megathreats the world encounters—from pandemics to financial crashes—are more like a charging rhino: They’re dangerous, but can also be seen coming far in advance.

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