Boris Johnson steps down, to be replaced by David Frost – or Jeremy Hunt, or Michael Gove, or Peppa Pig. French presidential elections are beset by civil unrest over pandemic restrictions. Russia mounts some kind of incursion in eastern Ukraine. China waits for an opportune moment to overrun Taiwan.
And the world runs out of Greek letters to attach to Covid variants.
Yes, it’s the time for pundits and predictions – a new year stretching ahead and no shortage of views on what it will deliver. Some things seem dead certs: elections in Brazil, the US, Hungary and France. A new Covid wave to grapple with. A platinum jubilee. A controversial World Cup – and Winter Olympics.
But what about the unknown unknowns? We asked the Guardian’s 1 million supporters to make their predictions. The picture painted by a colourful spray of submissions was an alternative foretelling of the year ahead – and not hugely cheerful.
Geopolitically, Ukraine and Taiwan seem most vulnerable, but there were also predictions of showdowns in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ethiopia and Iran, of something stirring on Russia’s border with the Baltic republics, and of deepening hunger in Afghanistan and parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Donald Trump declares for the 2024 presidential race after the Republicans wrest back control of Congress; but populists and the far right fall into retreat elsewhere.
Everyone will have slightly more money – but that’s just another way of saying inflation will march upwards. Higher interest rates cause consumer pain around the world, and a Chinese property market collapse has a palpable financial impact. Food shortages bite. The UK government has to nationalise electricity provision, amid the wretched decay of privatised industries struggling with underinvestment.
Businesses pursue purpose and sustainability like never before, mindful this is the best way to retain fleet-footed talent.
An incipient desertion of Facebook and Twitter becomes a proper exodus; cryptocurrencies collapse in value faced with the twin threats of regulation and the issue of official digital currencies. Airports, supermarkets and lampposts become EV charging hubs. Gigabattery is voted word of the year, just ahead of microbiome, plyscraper, nanodrone and wolf warrior. There will be digital daemons for all.
Rain patterns change and there are further startling weather events in unexpected parts. A cyberattack causes major infrastructure disruption. Billions of trees are planted, but not all of them in the right places. Horses are increasingly used as a method of transport.
Assisted dying becomes bigger business than ever, as planned death becomes something of a performance. There is a backlash against the availability of online pornography as a new social division emerges between sybarites and prudes. Fertility rates plummet amid a crisis over sperm counts.
Overall, it will be a marginally better year than 2021. A survey of supporters found 50.5% optimistic about the new year, compared with 49.5% who were pessimistic.
A selection of supporters’ predictions for 2022
Europe will be facing two tricky crises: the refugee situation in Belarus and newly sparked tensions in Serbia, both potential candidates for another war in Europe. Extreme civil unrest due to the harsh Covid restrictions imposed by the governments. War between the US and China over Taiwan. Christine Brösenhuber
Horses will begin to be used for travel and will appear in towns and cities. To enable this to happen, horse parks will be provided where owners can safely leave their horses while they pop to the shops, go to work, nip to the GP … Horses run on grass – it makes so much sense. Penny Nicholson
Prediction of a repeat of the 1920s following the Spanish flu pandemic … if it is correct it will result in increase in social disease, alcoholism and drug taking … others much more relaxed will reap the benefits of an alternate life Covid-19 allowed them to see. Elaine Hasty
You’ll be able to personalise the sound of your electric car and the streets will become a cacophony of Clash meets Tchaikovsky. You’ll be able to select your own online daemon to accompany you to online office meetings: it will sit in the corner of your screen and scratch, titter, scowl, chuck pips etc while you nod seriously at your boss. Insects will be the new crisps, until people realise how gross insect farming is. Coralie Wilson
We’ll start to see a more purpose-orientated approach in business and in working life. The “great resignation” has encouraged many people to seek out work that feels personally meaningful to them, and I expect this trend will continue in 2022. As employees start to realign their working lives around a sense of personal meaning, it will eventually become clear to employers that purpose is a priority. This will encourage business owners and leaders to take a more intentional approach to strategy and management, figuring out what they can offer their employees and stakeholders, and working to make a meaningful impact in the world. Eloise Skinner
Enough people will leave Facebook and Twitter to make them unviable. Nick Jones
There will be bigger splits across society with those vaccinated v anti-vaxxers. This will lead to further disinformation and probably further violence and inequalities across society especially where compulsory vaccines are introduced. Gerry Lee
Macron will be re-elected. A definite 55% of Scottish yes for independence. A fourth dose of vaccine starting in May. The relationship between France and the UK will turn even sourer. Anna-Laure Damongeot
I see two major universal trends. The first that one half of the population of human beings of this world will evolve into a kinder and more generous species, grateful to have survived the worst existential crisis in our recent history. The other half, which has sunk into an alternative reality of viewing fellow people as enemies of their race, will have a rude awakening and lose considerable ground because their own clans will desert them even as their predictions keep getting exposed as hate and not facts. Aruna Hariharan
A growing youth movement of authentic and knowledgeable activists who demand transformative change in our governance systems. Steve Martin
Sinn Féin/Alliance form Northern Ireland government at Stormont in May causing civil war in the Conservative party as their negotiating stance on the NI protocol with Europe collapses. Further Brexit issues with border controls and supply chain problems ramp up the pressure on Johnson. He does not rise to the challenge and further infighting results in a leadership challenge. Paul Collins
Julian Assange freed and allowed to return to Australia with his wife and two sons. Mariam Dessaive
I predict that Boris will further seek to weasel his way out of No 10 because he doesn’t like being PM when it’s difficult. Kathy Duggan
A major crypto crash, perhaps because of regulatory crackdowns and/or the introduction of one or more official digital currencies. Geoff Barnard
A significant decline of the far right in many countries. A bigger “normality” of our lives facing Covid-19 (vaccination and weaker variants). A more severe crisis between western countries and China and Russia. Luiz Bastos
I think that countries where there’s no free speech, a lot of corruption, poverty and very high Covid deaths will face big trouble (India, Egypt, Iran, even maybe Russia and China), if not in 2022 then in the next 10 years. Erika Claus Petiot
Due to political embarrassment of stories of exploitation of overseas workers in Qatar, Fifa moves World Cup location to the more sensitive choice of Saudi Arabia, only after Belarus turned down the opportunity. Patrick brosnan
With four major Covid-19 variants in two years we can expect another two in 2022. Could be more with the lack of take-up of vaccines worldwide. Eventually, we’ll run out of Greek letters. Dave Bartlett
There will be a series of scandals of older vulnerable people coming to significant harm as a result of the lack of social care availability. Peter Loose
We’ll all move to the Orkneys to soak up the surplus electricity. As a result there will be a run on warm clothing especially puffer jackets. As a result of that the eider duck population will crash. Jane Edmonds
While the west is distracted by further Covid outbreaks, Russia invades Ukraine and China attacks Taiwan – simultaneously. The west subsequently does not know which way to turn. George Stephens
China will begin to take serious measures on climate emissions, and Australia and Canada’s fossil industries will suffer accordingly. Norm Mohamid
There will be a major disruption caused either by a cyberattack or by failure of GPS – caused by a large solar storm or a system problem. We have become far too dependent on technology that is vulnerable to widespread failure. Martyn Thomas
More people than ever will give up on the US and Canadian costs of living and move to Mexico and Panama. Suzanne Gravelle
2022 is going to be significantly worse even than 2021 and 2020. Large increases in the price of food, fuel, energy, hospitality. Maybe even food shortages. More extreme weather events, including more, and worse, in the UK. Terrifying clampdowns on freedom of speech and the right to protest – eg “protesters” being imprisoned for sharing views and communicating with each other online. And who knows what is going to happen with Covid? The shocking thing is that, even with 2020 and 2021 being as awful as they have been, they are better than any year we’ll see for the rest of our lives. Cathy Eastburn
The Covid variants will have to be named in Sanskrit, after we run out of Greek letters. Mike Allen
I hate to say this, but there will be an increase in tensions over the Ukraine, Taiwan, and Iran’s nuclear programme. This will not be triumph of the west. The US will retreat from these facedown, and Ukraine will fall into the orbit of Russia, Taiwan will fall to China, without a fight, at the early signs of invasion, and Iran will find itself on the receiving end of Israeli attacks on its nuclear programme. Whether it retaliates effectively, along with its allies Hezbollah and to a lesser extant Hamas, will determine Israel’s fate. The 2022 elections in the US will lead to a return to Republican majorities in both ouses. Harry Rajchgot
The Queen abdicates, Charles sees the light and decides to retire to his potting shed, William stands down for the sake of his family, Harry says “no way”, everyone else in line looks the other way … and a republic is declared. Myanah Saunders