The three big issues that society will have to deal with in the next 10-15 years (in order of probability):
1. The Demographic Crunch
By 2020 the boomers will be no longer be able to delay retirement. Medical costs will skyrocket. The pool of taxpayers will shrink. No-one is denying this will happen, its the least controversial of these issues.
2. The Oil Crunch
Even the oil companies admit oil production will peak around 2020. Once oil production plateaus it will put a cap on global economic growth that we cannot escape. The only alternative to to move our entire transportation infrastructure from oil to something else. What chance of that happening in the next 14 years?
Could the Peak Oilers be wrong? Well yes, they've been wrong before and they will be wrong again. Someone will predict Peak Oil every year from now until it actually happens. The optimists say there's a lot of oil in tar sands in Canada and Venezuela but these reserves are only economically viable when crude prices are very high, and the EROEI is crap. For every three barrels of oil you produce you have to burn two (EROEI = 1.5:1) unlike Saudi crude where the EROEI is something like 10:1.
3. The Climate Crunch
If the scientists are right (and they're not just making this stuff up to protect their funding) climate change should be hitting us big time by 2020. A few things that might shock the punters out of their complacency; A major Australian city or town runs out of water (Poowoomba perhaps?), a major coral bleaching event on the Barrier Reef destroys the economy of FNQ (oh, and we lose one of the natural wonders of the world in the process), the snow stops falling at Perisher and Thredbo. Funnily enough, I reckon the last one would have the most impact. James Packer might notice.
Could the scientists be wrong? Of course. I have to admit its the least probable of these scenarios. Unfortunately for the skeptics, the climate scientists are become more alarmed (not less) in recent years as the evidence mounts that climate change is happening faster than anticipated.
So, what odds would you give on these happening by 2020?
My guess: 1. 100%, 2. 80%, 3. 60%