So here's the final (only slightly late) installment of my predictions for 2017.
Have a happy new year!
October Theresa May resigns as Prime Minister of the UK after a delegation from the 1922 Committee pay her a visit with baseball bats. Boris Johnson, one-time leader-in-waiting, bribes his way onto one of the few still-flying airliners bound for the United States and tweets in mid-air about his intention to request political asylum and re-assert his US citizenship. The aircraft is intercepted over the Atlantic and shot down by F-15s acting at the request of President Pence (who really doesn't want to give BoJo a shot at making his run in 2024).
An elderly back-bencher is prevailed upon to do the honorable thing and accept the office of the Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, thereby freeing up a seat for a by-election. On the basis of the theory that when you're up to your nose in shit the only way out is to take a deep breath and dive, Nigel Farage is fast-tracked as candidate for the by-election and, upon election, is promptly shoved through the door at Number Ten: at his first interview with the monarch he is told "you broke it, you fix it". (His subsequent plaintive requests for Jimmy Saville's phone number go unanswered.)
In the wake of the September melt-down, Germany's Bundestag elections produce huge voter swings to the AfD (from the CDU) and the Greens and Left (from the SPD), with the Pirate Party passing the critical 5% threshold for the first time. The AfD, taking heart from what they perceive as a swing to the right in global politics, go one step too far by openly calling for the rehabilitation of Adolf Hitler and are banned by the constitutional court; a Green/Left/Pirate coalition is formed and announces its intention of moving to leave the World Trade Organization to permit a sweeping regime of nationalization of banks and financial institutions and emergency measures to keep industry and agriculture going.
The new hard-left German government with it's Grumpy Cat logo is greeted with horror in the United States and is denounced in Moscow as Communism. However, when the new regime in Berlin announces its intention of forgiving all personal debt owed by Greek borrowers (denominated in the collapsed Euro, hence not worth very much at all) and to institute a universal basic income scheme throughout the EU and work to abolish wage slavery for all it buys them a lot of friends. The situation is very murky, and made murkier by the slow, unanounced withdrawal of Russian tanks from the Baltic region and their re-appearance further south.
(The joke that "the surprise twist in the third act is that Germans get to be the good guys who save the world" trends on twitter, where most people aren't aware of the underlying catastrophic financial situation: roughly 90% of the money circulating in global markets has evaporated, the two current (and one previous) planetary reserve currencies have imploded, crops are rotting in the fields and containers rusting aboard drifting freighters.)
The Russian government rhetoric about reunification with the Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics, and certain bits of Poland cools off remarkably rapidly as the Russian foreign ministry tries to work out how to save the President's Bahamian bank accounts and keep the lights on over winter.
There is a particularly ominous silence from China, where state censorship has clamped down with extreme rapidity on any unapproved news about interest rates, exports, the balance of trade surplus, and the gathering global financial crisis. There are rumors of lock-ins, and of riots and massacres outside closed factory gates: the shock waves are still feeding back through the supply chain but the liquidity crisis is affecting demand for Chinese exports, and the workshop of the world is about to down tools for the first time since 1989, ending the post-Tiananmen settlement.
The third week of October might be described as "the long double-take", a period during which the global balance of power is poised on a knife edge so sharp that nobody dares to breathe. The situation is clearly worse than the 2008 crisis, with major political protest votes rocking the entire developed world.
Then President Pence catches a dose of stomach flu and Donald Trump pops up in the Oval Office like the unwelcome surprise at the end of a slasher movie: "I'm baaaaack!"
... And the Campi Flegrei finally erupts, spewing smoke and ash 25km into the stratosphere and emitting a pyroclastic flow that rolls over Naples; shortly thereafter a second eruption breaks out beneath the Gulf of Pozzuoli, creating a steam explosion the like of which hasn't been seen since the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. The first eruption is estimated to have killed two million people directly: the second one shatters windows from Edinburgh to Tel Aviv, swamps both north and south Mediterranean coastlines with tsunami waves, kills half the population of Italy and a quarter of the population of Greece, and ejects an estimated 200 cubic kilometers of dust and debris, shutting down aviation again and ushering in a period of intense global cooling that will result in famines and ultimately starve up to half a billion people.
President Trump's response is to appoint his golf caddy to head up FEMA and to tweet furiously about the urgent need to cut the foreign aid budget.
November A long-period comet is identified crossing the orbit of Venus, inbound towards the sun for the first time in half a million years. An elderly comet, it isn't outgassing much any more, so lacked a visible coma (tail) until it was unusually close to the sun. Astronomers excitedly announce that its course crosses the Earth's orbit so closely that it is expected to pass between the Earth and the Moon on its way out, in December.
However, nobody much gets to hear the news because a new and particularly virulent piece of malware is doing the rounds, hijacking kettles, toasters, and car stereos worldwide. Like most such, it demands a ransom payable in Bitcoin; but Bitcoin has inflated so much since the malware was released that nobody can afford to unlock their devices, and meanwhile the botnet continues to look for other devices to hijack—including popular cable and ADSL modems, cellular base stations, and iPhones (by way of a hitherto unidentified zero-day exploit). With over 200 million hosts it's the biggest botnet in history, and it succeeds in doing what no botnet has done before, and shutting down cellular data traffic across much of the developed and developing world.
(Also? The alt-right leaders riding high have noticed that reality has a marked left-wing political bias and aren't listening to—or paying—scientists any more.)
November 21st: it's probably not connected in any way with October's eruption in the Mediterranean, but one thing's for sure: the Cascadia Subduction Zone has been frisky for the past few tens of thousands of years. There's also some evidence that the Cascadia subduction zone has triggered most of the quakes along the San Andreas Faultline in California. The long feared "big one" finally strikes: an undersea magintude 9 quake about fifty miles off the coast between Portland and Seattle triggers tsunamis all the way north to Vancouver and south as far as Northern California. Luckily—perhaps—the temblors are down below magnitude 8 when they strike the coastal cities; unfortunately they're still violent enough to cause devastation, washing away everything within a mile of the coastline and even further inland in some places (as with the quakes that followed the Great Tohoku Quake of 2011). The Hanford DOE Site is fortunately far away from the coastline. Unfortunately, many of the most contaminated buildings there—dating to the 1940s—were built without adequate attention to earthquake resilience, and thus one of the most heavily contaminated nuclear sites on the planet takes a magnitude 7+ quake on the chin.
Drinking from the Columbia river after the quake is, shall we say, contraindicated.
Aftershocks continue, to the dismay of the survivors, for the next couple of weeks. The San Andreas fault burps, but it's a relatively minor 4.5 magnitude shimmy that probably causes more heart attacks due to anxiety than actual direct casualties. Mount Hood begins to tremble and outgas a plume of steam, but the survivors are too busy to pay much attention: there are tens of thousands of dead and a radiological disaster bigger than Three Mile Island for Trump's golf caddy to deal with.
Nigel Farage has not been heard from for two weeks after being appointed Prime Minister, but a steadily growing pile of empty cans of Carlsberg Special Brew is building up by the back door of Number Ten.
December On the first of December, the worst news of all finally escapes into the wild, bristling and growling beneath the spotlights. The path of Comet Trump-LePen-Putin-Farage (the discoverers waived the opportunity to name it after themselves) has been calculated, and it is definitely going to pass between the Earth and the Moon. In fact, it's going to pass so close there's some uncertainty over whether it's going to pass between the ISS and the Earth. In fact ...
... Let's just hope our successor species (the descendants, two megayears hence, of the indigenous Bavarian Raccoons, themselves introduced to Europe for hunting purposes by senior Nazis, and now a rabies vector, so we can reasonably call them rabid nazi racoons) make a better job of it than we did!
(Fade to black, to the tune of We'll Meet Again.)