10 of the World’s Most Groundbreaking Futurists


Paul Roberts

Roberts, a 1983 graduate of the University of Washington, is a journalist who has written for Harper's magazine, National Geographic and numerous other publications [source: Texas Lutheran University]. He covers the complex interplay of economics, technology and the natural world. He's one of the most prominent forecasters promoting the theory of "peak oil," which holds that the world may already have achieved its maximum petroleum production, and that supplies of the fuel will decline dramatically in decades to come.

In Roberts' 2004 book, "The End of Oil," he predicts that that energy demand will continue to rise, as people in developing nations clamor for automobiles, larger homes with air conditioning, and electronic entertainment available in the U.S. and other technologically and economically advanced societies. Increasingly intense competition for shrinking supplies of petroleum and other fossil fuels, in turn, will lead to conflict and political instability. At the same time, climate change, driven by humans who burn petroleum and other fuels and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, will have increasingly destructive effects.

"As energy supplies become harder to transport, as environmental effects worsen, and as energy diplomacy sows even greater geo-political discord, the weight of the existing energy order becomes less and less bearable -- and the possibility of a disruption more undeniable," Roberts writes. He sees it as imperative for the U.S., a major consumer of the world's energy, to avert an eventual global catastrophe by becoming more energy-efficient and developing alternative energy sources to replace petroleum and other fossil fuels [source: Roberts].