It was a bad year. The planet continued warming at an alarming rate. The civil war in Syria, which has now claimed about a half million lives, raged on. The gun violence epidemic persisted unabated – 14,748 have been killed in the U.S. so far this year. Many beloved celebrities died. And the constitutional mechanism intended to stop a demagogue from seizing presidential power ensured his victory instead.
The good news is that 2016 is almost over.
The bad news is that 2017 will almost surely be worse.
Here's a non-comprehensive but alarming look at what could be in store.
A trade war with China
During his campaign, Donald Trump floated the idea of imposing a 45 percent tariff on exports from China. Back then, Ted Cruz, his rival for the Republican nomination, pointed out that the effect of imposing would be a comparable increase in prices for American consumers. Basically, if he follows through on his threat, your $649 iPhone 7 would cost about $941.00 next year. And this doesn't just apply to cell phones – 70 percent of which are made in China – but to everything from air conditioners (80 percent) to shoes (60 percent).
A real war with China
A few weeks after his surprise election, Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan. Taking the call upset the Chinese, who, per their longstanding agreement with the U.S., don't recognize Taiwan as an independent nation. Our impish president-elect tried to play it off as an innocent accident (it wasn't) – which, as it happens, is exactly how experts believe a war between the U.S. and China could happen. A misconstrued threat, the RAND Corporation explained in a 116-page study completed over the summer, could touch off a potentially devastating chain of events between China and the U.S. since both have incentive to strike first.
A constitutional crisis
For all conservatives' professed love of the Constitution, there are some, like billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who think the document could use some improvements – an amendment to limit federal spending and term limits on Supreme Court justices and Congress members, for starters. There are only two ways to change the Constitution, though: by a vote of two-thirds of both houses of Congress or if two-thirds of state legislatures – 34 total – call for a new constitutional convention. In January, 33 state legislatures will be controlled by Republicans. So far, 28 of those states have passed resolutions calling for a convention. In the coming year, elections in Virginia and New Jersey could, in theory, give Republicans who want a convention to rewrite the Constitution the numbers they need to convene one.
New threats to press freedom
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump's staff maintained a blacklist of the outlets whose coverage displeased them, and reporters from those outlets were barred from campaign events; the reporters who were allowed in were kept in a pen, taunted and menaced from the stage and often, with Trump's encouragement, by the audience. So when incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus announced imminent "changes" to press protocols, journalists were reasonably concerned.
And there's a lot more to be worried about than just access: On the campaign trail, Trump threatened to "open up" libel laws to make it easier for the rich and powerful to sue news outlets. If he wants advice on how to systematically destroy a thriving news outlet via a flurry of frivolous lawsuits, he can just ask transition team member Peter Thiel, who funded a mission to destroy Gawker earlier this year. For a more lasting impact, Trump could always nominate Thiel to the Supreme Court – something he's rumored to have considered. (Trump and Thiel both deny this.)
More of everything that comes along with climate change
In October, atmospheric carbon levels exceeded 400 parts per million – the so-called carbon tipping point. That's a big deal because scientists have long believed that once we hit that threshold, the effects of climate change will be irreversible. That means species loss, deforestation, rising sea levels, warmer oceans, intenser storms, new diseases, more wars.
According to a report in the New Scientist, the world will reach a tipping point in antibiotic resistance in 2017, which means people could start dying from common illnesses like urinary tract infections, strep throat and pneumonia.
The dismantling of the Affordable Care Act
Just in time for that possible antibiotic resistance tipping point, Republicans in Congress and those soon to be in the White House are already puzzling over the most politically expedient way to take away health care coverage from some 16.4 million people nationwide. They don't plan to stop there, either – the GOP-dominated Congress is also looking to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides health care services to some 2.5 million men and women around the country.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
Happy New Year!