“May you live in interesting times.” — Old Chinese curse

While nothing is ever really certain, the coming year will certainly be interesting. From our experts, it seems like 2017 will be a bet on more of the same or absolute change. But there is some gray area here and there in the various factions of our society and right here in Ventura County. In this year’s forecast, experts from California Lutheran University and California State University, Channel Islands, share their insight on what to expect, for better and … for worse.

Climate

by Simone Aloisio

Global warming has stopped! I am just kidding. 2016 is coming into the end of the year slightly hotter than 2015, the hottest year on record. As the year closes, it looks like 2016 will be the third record-breaking year in a row. My forecast for 2017 is that it will be hotter still. 

Globally, it has been hotter than average for 40 consecutive years now. Most of the people alive today have not lived a single year of below-average temperature. The last three years have been the hottest on record, and 2017 is likely to be even hotter. Despite this, it is a virtual certainty that for babies born in 2017, this will be one of the coldest years in their lifetime because every decade going forward is likely to be warmer than the last one. That’s what climate change is going to look like for the next century. 

Most scientists agree that the consequences of climate change are going to be costly. In California, some of the concerns include rising sea level, a year-round fire season, more intense droughts, and increased exposure to tropical diseases and pests. While the consequences of climate change are not going to be the same for everybody, people will needlessly suffer. The suffering will not be evenly distributed, but overall, a net increase in suffering is expected. Like most problems, it is more cost effective to prevent than it is to clean up afterward.

Science is not a democracy. In some sense, it doesn’t really matter what the politicians think about climate change. If we ignore the existence of the problem, that will not change its nature, only our willful ignorance of the problem. I do not expect that any of the politics of 2017 will have any effect on the science, but I worry that it may affect our capacity to understand it and do something about it. 

The solution to climate change is in how we produce energy. Currently, we burn fossil fuels and release carbon dioxide, a byproduct of that burning, into the atmosphere. Indisputably, more carbon dioxide leads to warmer temperatures because of the greenhouse effect. There are many unknowns related to climate change, but this is not one of them. Carbon dioxide concentrations will continue to be the dominant driver of climate change, forcing temperatures higher in the coming decades. 

In order to solve the problem, we need to find and use ways of producing energy that don’t emit large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Many economists agree that this will have just moderate costs. Like the suffering, however, the costs are not evenly distributed. Large energy companies, especially ones that did not diversify their capacity outside of fossil fuels, would suffer more costs if we started to move more toward solving the problem. 

I don’t know which of these sufferings we will choose to try to solve as a society. But because of the choices we have made so far, I have to forecast that 2017 will be hotter than 2016.

Professor Simone Aloisio is the chair of chemistry department at CSU, Channel Islands.

Economy

by Matthew Fineup and Dan Hamilton

The nation

The United Sates economy continues to grow at less than its potential. Since early 2015, average job creation has fallen steadily and investment growth has been negative or near zero. Productivity declined for most of the past year, and workforce participation is at its lowest rate since the ’70s. These are terrible figures for an economy that is “recovered.”

With the electoral surprise of Nov. 8, the question is whether a new administration can break this pattern. Both markets and economic forecasters have weighed in decisively. The S&P is up more than 5 percent from the pre-election close, an increase of over $1 trillion in total market cap. The consensus economic forecast has been revised upward, with economists noting that Trump proposals will amount to “a substantial fiscal stimulus.”

In contrast, our forecast is the same as it was before the election. We assume that Donald Trump will not succeed in changing many of the policies that are primary drivers of the country’s poor economic performance.

There will be no significant change to monetary policy as long as Janet Yellen remains Fed chair.  And while we would like to think that, with a businessman and political outsider as president, economic policies will tilt toward free enterprise and less regulation, we are chastened by recent history.

There are risks to our outlook. Our assumption that Trump will achieve little in the way of significant policy changes could be wrong. A trade war with China would reduce GDP, perhaps dramatically.  Corporate tax reform would increase GDP, perhaps dramatically. We assign low probability to each of these policy changes.

The state

California has long been out of step with the rest of the country. On Nov. 8, as the country was registering disgust with the economic and political status quo, California voters seemed to be saying, “Please, may I have some more.”

We believe that California will continue to grow more quickly than the United States, although the gap will be narrower than before. Existing policies could bring growth lower, and new restrictions could add even more weight to the labors of business formation and job creation.

While we are not predicting significant impacts of the new administration, even modest changes to some federal policies could have large impacts in California. Repeal of even part of the Affordable Care Act could have dramatic impacts on state coffers. The same is true of changes to federal energy, international trade and immigration policies.

The county

As of the election, Ventura County was still short of its pre-recession jobs. Ventura County is alone in Southern California as the only county that has not fully recovered from the recession.  Year-to-date job growth averaged just 1.2 percent, compared with 2.6 for the state. It’s reasonable to now speculate that Ventura County has passed its peak jobs.

Ventura County’s slow job growth is not accidental. Ventura County residents voted to extend through 2050 the strictest urban containment policies in California. Despite how these measures are promoted, they are anti-growth measures that drive an out-migration of middle-income jobs and households.

Not surprisingly, for 12 consecutive years, more people have left the county each year than have come to the county from elsewhere. We’re used to seeing migrations out of places that experience an industrial collapse, places that are poor and hopeless. We’re not used to seeing migrations out of places boasting of superior “quality of life.”

Since Ventura County’s situation is not accidental, it is also not inevitable. We’re much more hopeful about the prospects of meaningful reform in Ventura County than we are in Washington. As we await needed reforms, expect increasing angst in the region, at least among economists if not voters.

Dan Hamilton, associate professor in the School of Management at California Lutheran University, is the director of economics for the CLU Center for Economic Research and Forecasting. Matthew is an economist at the California Lutheran University Center for Economic Research and Forecasting.

Politics

by Herbert Gooch

After the bitter, seemingly endless, surprise election of 2016, we need relief from politics. It’s not in the cards for three reasons: Donald Trump’s aspirations, Gov. Jerry Brown’s legacy and California’s next elections.

First, 2017 will bring the contrary of all things Trump in California. The state’s profile is a mirror image of national politics. Republicans control the presidency and both houses of Congress, and are poised to stack the federal judiciary. Democrats dominate California: Not one Republican holds statewide executive office, and Democrats have two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature and the lion’s share of the congressional delegation and both Senate seats.

Trump will be on a rampage to accomplish — however vague, hyperbolic and contradictory his promises — something. On virtually every major issue, California and the federal government will be at odds.

On immigration, Brown wants to protect the undocumented; Trump to expel them. On environment, Brown wants less drilling and more protection and regulation to lessen global warming; Trump suspects global warming, likes drilling, and detests regulation. Brown embraces international trade; Trump blames it. On public education, Brown presses for reforms; Trump looks for alternatives. Brown tolerates higher taxes, is notoriously thrifty and struggles to reduce debt; Trump vows to slash taxes and hike spending, and shows no concern for mounting debt.

Second, it is Brown’s last full year to fulfill his legacy. He will be tempted to play liberal crusader, defending California and the nation from Trump. But he will focus on cementing his role as the “miser with a vision”: he who saved California from bankruptcy, preserved the environment and restructured the education, prison and justice systems. To do all this he needs to keep a lid on spending, legislate the “twin tunnels,” fund high-speed transit, assure cap and trade, and indemnify his lofty environmental goals.

Third, this year is prelude to the 2018 gubernatorial elections. Brown is termed out. Would-be successors, filled with passionate intensity to forge change, are multiplying daily.

All the statewide executive and congressional offices are in contention and a Senate seat may be vacant. The stakes in legislative races will be high because the margin of Democratic super-majority is so narrow, a scant seat or two in each house.

Most political struggle in California, however, will be intraparty. It will reflect differences in personality, ideological bent, group identity and sectional perspective.

Ventura County has cloned state political trends favoring Democrats over the last decade. Trump, having bypassed campaigning in California, may weigh the costs and potential gains of investing in rebuilding the Republican Party statewide and locally.

Expect interesting times for the county as the Board of Supervisors adjusts to an additional conservative supervisor. The extension of SOAR and defeat of a transportation tax stymied solutions for growing problems of housing affordability and traffic congestion. Problems will mount, frustrations will deepen, and politics will become more contentious.

2017 promises to be filled with political surprise and dissonance from all levels of politics. As was said of political life long ago, “The king is dead, long live the king.”

Herbert Gooch, Ph.D., is a professor of political science at California Lutheran University.

Education

by Jill Leafstedt

2017 is shaping up to be a year of change in our country and in education. To many of us, anticipating these changes is difficult. But if we look at the current situation through a historical lens, we see that change in education policy is nothing new. Throughout history, educators have adapted to change in policy. Some change brought improvements and some brought challenges. Despite these ups and downs, one thing remains constant: When one walks into the classroom of an expert teacher, good teaching is happening. In 2017, good teaching will continue in the classrooms of those who are committed to educating our youth. But there will be a few potential shifts in the coming year.

First, there will be a need to implement strategies and methods to prepare students to become fact checkers. Schools and teachers have always taught information literacy, but there will be a new focus on digital literacy. Digital literacy is the ability to navigate, participate in and understand our new digital environments. These skills are not explicit in our curricula. Teachers are going to need to step outside their boundaries to learn about digital environments as they teach our students. I predict that our schools will begin moving away from the fear-based curriculum that teaches students to stay off-line and to avoid participating in digital environments. I predict that more and more teachers will begin investing time not just in how to keep their students safe online, but also how they can become active, digital citizens with the ability to examine critically what they encounter online.

Secondly, there will be renewed conversation at the federal level about school vouchers. Opponents believe that vouchers will devastate our public education system as they provide public funds for parents to send their children to private schools. Private schools and public schools are held to different standards. The use of vouchers in other states has resulted in a two-tiered educational system: one that holds public schools accountable for student learning and one that that allows private schools tremendous flexibility. Another point for opponents is the fact that close to 85 percent of private schools are religious schools. Voucher systems in effect provide federal funding for religious education. Supporters argue that vouchers provide parents the opportunity to select a school that better meets their child’s needs and will result in improving or closing poorly performing public schools. My prediction is that this debate about vouchers will be on the forefront for educators in 2017.

Thirdly, a voice in the push for vouchers is the nominee for secretary of education, Becky DeVose. This nominee is a concern for many teachers in the field. Her lack of experience in education greatly reduces her credibility in that she has only attended school, but never led a classroom of children. Educators across the nation are highly educated professionals, with over 50 percent having a master’s degree. Having a person with no educational experience leading the Department of Education is a troubling development. Under DeVose, we will not only see the debate about vouchers come to the forefront, we will also see a new focus on Common Core.

The Common Core has roots in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a policy change that required schools to be held accountable for student performance through testing and reporting. NCLB gave each state control over the standards to which student tests would be aligned. After years of collecting and analyzing data on student performance, it was found that students in some states were being required to meet much lower standards than others. The Common Core was developed through an effort of the National Governors Association, not the Department of Education, attempts to provide states with consistent achievement guidelines. Although each state chooses whether or not to adopt the Common Core, this year we are likely to see our federal government encourage states to move away from federal standards and drop the Common Core. What this will mean for schools in California is hard to tell, but given that our teachers are just adjusting to new curricula aligned to Common Core, and districts have spent a great deal of money adopting them, I don’t see any immediate changes on the table for 2017.

Lastly, 2017 will see a dramatic shortage of teachers in California and across our nation. This shortage has already begun and it is going to get worse. Without a renewed effort on preparing more professionals in the field of education, we will not have enough expert teachers to depend on as we navigate policy changes in education. In the end, the teacher shortage will be the most important problem facing education in 2017 and beyond.

Jill Leafstedt, Ph.D., is the director of Teaching and Learning Innovations for CSU, Channel Islands. 

Technology

by David Claveau

This year my daughter received a Fitbit activity tracker as a gift. It’s one of many wearable devices that look like a wristwatch but measure your heart rate, the number of steps you have walked and other data that can help you stay healthy. The wristband  is a nice shade of plum and I believe that’s why she wears it. And that’s one reason why wearable devices are going to increase in number and variety in 2017; people like to wear things. Another reason is what we have come to know as Moore’s Law, which can be paraphrased as: The functionality of our integrated circuits, or electronic chips, doubles roughly every two years. This means that our computers can get so small, they literally disappear into the fabric of our lives and clothes. When we buy a wearable device we usually buy into an ecosystem of services and fashion statements. Current ecosystems offered by Apple, Google and Microsoft are largely based on entertainment, communication and commerce. But wearable health trackers want to send your health data to your healthcare network. They want to call 911 for you and save your life. And above all else, you want them to give you more control over your healthcare. You need a digital healthcare ecosystem and in 2017 you will not get one. When it comes to issues of health, safety and privacy, our laws and regulations need to catch up with our technology. But wearable devices and healthcare ecosystems are not alone in this regard.

For years you have been hearing about autonomous, self-driving cars. There is even a self-driving car from Google at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, in Santa Clara County, California. While you may have thought your next car would be self-driving, it won’t be in 2017. There are many exciting projects in the news from Tesla, Uber, Google and others. The technology is ready for deployment but not on our roads. Look for limited deployments in structured environments such as airports, campuses and theme parks. Special service vehicles that are easy to spot, such as the U.S. postal delivery trucks, are also good candidates. A full transition to self-driving vehicles, however, will take many years. Again, our laws and regulations need to catch up and address many issues related to safety, liability and insurance.

And finally, robots! 2017 is the year that the robots finally come and kill us all in the night. Just kidding. Our collective death wish needs to wait for such a long time that by then we will have a fully functional digital healthcare system to put us back together. In the meantime, there is a growing need for intelligent, interactive robots, driven by changes in the way we manufacture and distribute products, and by changes in our demographics. We will soon need large numbers of robotic co-workers and care-givers that can perform much more than our current vacuum cleaning robots. Progress is being made by companies like Rethink Robotics that makes an industrial robot called Baxter.  It has two arms and a face and is used for simple industrial tasks such as packing, unpacking and sorting. A human co-worker programs Baxter in minutes by moving the robot’s arms in the desired way to perform a task. Baxter then remembers the motion and can repeat it. We can expect to have more robotic co-workers like Baxter in the future, but not in 2017. For now you can buy a knitted cover for your Roomba based on characters in the original Super Mario Bros. game from an artist named Kelice Penney.

Any forecast of technology should cite the law attributed to futurist Roy Amara: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run. So enjoy 2017 because in the long run things will be a lot different.

David Claveau is an assistant professor of computer science at California State University, Channel Islands.