Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

Projections and predictions for the year ahead

1 Comment

Welcome to 2024, friends. It’s that time of year when futurists and prophets play fast and loose, projecting visions rife with both promise and peril, weighing the possible against the improbable. As we contemplate competing pictures of the future, although every forecast risks missing the mark, one thing is certain: 2024 won’t be a year for the faint-hearted. Let’s take a closer look.


Climate change: The creeping catastrophe

Let’s start with the truly alarming prospect: we may be creeping closer to a burnt world. Experts agree that if humanity can achieve ‘net zero emissions by mid-century’ — a big ask — we stand the best chance to cap Earth’s surface temperature rise. Currently at 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels, we teeter on the edge of reaching an alarming 1.5°C. This isn’t just an arbitrary number; it’s the threshold beyond which ‘widespread societal breakdown’ becomes a possibility.

A step in the wrong direction lies before us, as forecasters ‘believe 2024 could be the first year that humanity surpasses [an increase of ] 1.5 degrees Celsius’. The tipping point benchmark looms; as CNCB reports, ‘the fight to keep global heating under 1.5 degrees Celsius had reached “now or never” territory’, with a 50/50 per cent chance of overshooting that ominous mark.


The global chessboard: Old foes, new dynamics

The venerable soothsayers at Time offer up the usual bogeymen — Russia, China, Iran — in the geopolitical arena. And let’s not overlook Generation Z, the new kids on the block who have ‘both the ability and the motivation to organize online to reshape corporate and public policy, making life harder for companies everywhere and disrupting politics with the click of a button’. 

If that sounds to you like democracy, well, hey, you’re resisting the tidal pull of grumpier older generations to resent our eventual replacements.


The melting pot: Migration and its discontents

Forbes cites some of the usual Doomsday engines — climate change, culture wars, ‘the rise of intelligent machines’ (peekaboo to our AI overlords in waiting), urbanisation, the generation gap, etc. — before pointing out one critical trend that could shape next year’s headlines: the rise in global migration.


Between 1970 and 2020, the number of people living in a country other than the one they were born in more than tripled. In 2024, some will be refugees fleeing war, some will be economic migrants in search of a better life, and some will be looking to escape to parts of the world where life is not yet overly disrupted by rising temperatures and sea levels. Economies will continue to benefit from an influx of mostly young, able-bodied and active workers. And fears of the strain that could be put on utilities and public services, or the impact of new arrivals on indigenous populations, will continue to fuel political division.


Refugees, economic migrants, and those fleeing climate impacts are not just shaping headlines but redefining economies and political landscapes. Yes, they bring vigor and talent, but also ignite debates over resources and cultural integration. The question looms: How will societies adapt to this demographic reshuffle?

The use of xenophobia, racism, islamophobia and antisemitism for political gain is hardly news. But its perfecting by Trump and his antipodean wannabees begs the question: will Trump be allowed to stand for a second presidency, or will he be serving time behind bars?


The US elections: Rowdy political theatre

The coming US election carries in its train the serious possibility of a second civil war. That such a scenario is being taken seriously by commentators says a lot about the damage Trump has done since his divisive one-term at Commander-in-Chief, and his subsequent rabble rousing.

Politico’s take? They sit on the fence in splintery anticipation, observing that presidential elections ‘are won or lost in the center [sic], and moderates and independents — most of whom don’t want to think about politics — do seem increasingly alert to the dangers of Trump. In addition, Democrats are now just about as ideologically cohesive as Republicans.’

Alarmingly, it notes, ‘the former president’s fraught legal situation compels him to attack the legitimacy of a wider and wider swath of American institutions — executives and legislatures as well as courts — further deprecating American democracy.’

Whatever their political bent, most pundits are unanimous in thinking this upcoming election isn’t a political contest; it’s a battle for the soul of the nation. Much like the last one, only more so.


Tech tidal wave: Progress or peril?

Remember Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock? Well, the future is now, and it’s a wild ride. In his 1970 opus, Toffler suggested that ‘the thrust toward some form of man-machine symbiosis is furthered by our increasing ingenuity in communicating with machines’. In a study of contrasts, AI will continue to improve and wreak havoc with our lives, putting some people out of work and helping others in the field of medicine and education.


Australia: The unexpected energy powerhouse

Want some good news? Australia may be in the driver’s seat when it comes to renewable energy. The federal government’s Australia 2023 Intergenerational Report (subtitled ‘Australia’s Future to 2063’ — myopic speculators need not apply) notes that ‘with abundant wind, sun and open spaces Australia has the potential to generate energy more cheaply than many countries as the world transitions to net zero’:


Australia’s natural advantages provide potential to export renewable energy in forms such as green hydrogen or electricity via undersea cables. Expanding Australian industry’s capacity further along battery mineral value chains is also possible, through businesses building capabilities in downstream refining, manufacturing, and battery integration and services.


Who’d have thought that a desert continent would be in the running for a post-oil energy bonanza? Donald Horne’s tongue-in-cheek appellation ‘the lucky country’ is looking more apt than ever.


Media: The fragmentation of shared experience

Media doyen Marshall McLuhan’s famous adage that ‘the medium is the message’ is ever relevant as we witness the further splintering of mass communication. With the teeming hordes of new releases pending on so, so many streaming platforms, it seems that a shared cultural experience by way of television or film will continue to be a thing of the past. While the cultural lodestone of bygone eras will still be name-checked within our own generational ghettos, our corporate sense of self will be splintered more and more into idiosyncratic pastiches that defy any commonality or uniform beliefs about our shared reality.

And as Aunty ABC valiantly slogs on, people will continue to subscribe to their own wind-tunnel media ecosystems, exactingly curated to meet their preconceived notions, predilections, proclivities and prejudices. Perhaps the line between pretend journalism and entertainment will be further weakened in 2024? Forget Netflix, Stan, Disney+, Paramount+, etc. Prepare for continued declines in broadcasting and steep rises in narrow casting.


Cultural quirks: Bogan chic goes global

In lighter news, and in a surprising cultural twist, the Australian bogan lifestyle may become a cultural export in 2024. International travel for Australians is trending upwards, and it seems that, ready or not, Australians will be descending en masse on Europe in particular.

And with UK retailer Zara now stocking a ‘bogan’ inspired clothing range coupled with the newfound popularity of hi-viz workwear amongst (at least one) Singaporean tourist on TikTok, with any luck, 2024 may introduce glow-in-the-dark Uggies, jewel-encrusted designer thongs, ‘slap the chef’ bosomed BBQ aprons, multi-team footy guernseys, and speedos to the world’s online catalogues. Hopefully meat pie sandwiches, sweet-and-sour fish fingers, frozen orange juice pops, and chocolate biscuit-encased Pavlovas will feature as the next wave of food fads.


Wrapping up: Brace for impact

So here we stand in 2024, at the crossroads of hope and hazard. From the urgency of climate action to the complexities of global migration, from the tumult of American politics to the transformative power of technology, this year promises to be a white-hot crucible of change. Now having stumbled from matters of deep import to tomfoolery, I fare thee well in 2024. Buckle up.




Barry Gittins is a Melbourne writer.

Main image: (Getty images)

Topic tags: Barry Gittins, Future, Predictions, 2024, Climate Change, Elections



submit a comment

Existing comments

Two things that will undoubtedly continue unopposed in the coming year are the increasingly rapid declines of Judeo-Christian Western Civilisation and the Catholic Church.

John Frawley | 21 January 2024  

Similar Articles

The messiness of Australia Day

  • Andrew Hamilton
  • 24 January 2024

For a national day of celebration, Australia Day has had a varied, higgledy-piggledy and divisive history. In this, it echoes Australia itself and so provides a useful lens for reflecting on our national life.


Black swans and the art of expecting the unexpected

  • Max Jeganathan
  • 23 January 2024

Even the best forecasting gets it wrong, and every year has its own 'Black Swan' events, characterised by their unpredictability and impact. They remind us that the future is unpredictable, perpetually lurching between prediction and confusion.