The end of 2015 leaves many of the year’s most significant issues still very much in flux, including the reform of U.S. gun control laws, the fates of thousands of Syrian refugees, and the legal status of massive startups like Uber and Airbnb. Here’s our list of some of the most crucial topics facing the world in 2016:
As hundreds of thousands of people flee violence in Syria, governments in Europe and the U.S. are grappling with how to resettle them. Many Syrians are seeking refuge in Europe, and President Obama has pledged that the U.S. will accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year.
Just like 2014 before it, 2015 was the hottest year on record. In December, after weeks of negotiation in Paris, 195 nations agreed to a landmark deal that outlines a plan for global cooperation against climate change. While the Paris deal is an important step, the work of implementing it has barely begun.
This year we learned that no institution is safe from hackers: not the U.S. government, not health insurance companies–not even children’s toys. In 2016, cybersecurity will be an increasingly critical problem for companies, governments, and individuals.
America has already begun its long election season, and the presidential race will be an inescapable topic throughout 2016. Some of the biggest issues up for debate: climate change, terrorism, gun control, Planned Parenthood, prison reform, data security, and immigration.
In December, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced that all drone owners–even hobbyists–must register with the FAA by February or face steep fines. While the FAA waited until drones were already mainstream to step up regulation, the Department of Transportation is taking a more proactive approach to another emerging technology: self-driving cars. U.S. transportation secretary Anthony Foxx has promised imminent changes to the nation’s policy on autonomous cars. In Europe, the U.K. is already testing self-driving vehicles on public roads.
The U.S. is confronting an epidemic of mass shootings, and gun laws will be a major topic during the 2016 presidential election. Here’s where the top candidates stand on firearm regulations.
The terrorist group ISIS has gained power around the world, thanks in part to its powerful social media presence. A recent proposal would force Facebook and Twitter to report terrorist activity, and both Hillary Clinton and President Obama have called on tech companies to join the fight against terrorism. “I will urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice,” President Obama said in December.
As more of the world’s population gains access to the Internet–increasingly through inexpensive mobile devices rather than desktop computers–tech companies are exploring how best to serve (and exploit) a new customer base in developing nations. Facebook and Google are each working on projects to increase global Internet access, and Chinese electronics firm Xiaomi is bringing its cheap mobile devices into India, which will soon pass the U.S. to become the world’s second-largest smartphone market.
Sharing economy startups like Uber and Airbnb are expanding to more and more cities worldwide, and local laws are racing to catch up. Uber could soon be forced to classify its U.S. drivers as employees–a move that would upend its business model–and Airbnb is facing legal issues related to taxes and safety.
With the ubiquity of social media and smartphone cameras, injustices that could once be concealed and ignored now receive mainstream attention. Thanks to viral hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, online social justice will continue to be a major force inspiring real-life protests and legal progress in 2016.