From space exploration to independence referendums, 2022 has a lot going on - just take out cancellation insurance

While it is difficult to plan ahead due to ever-changing coronavirus restrictions across the world, hopes remain that some aspects of life will go on as normal around the globe, with many countries gearing up for an eventful 2022 – hopefully with cancellation insurance firmly in place.

Visitors click photographs in front of a model of 'Gaganyaan' orbital module developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for its planned 'Man in Space' mission.
Visitors click photographs in front of a model of 'Gaganyaan' orbital module developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for its planned 'Man in Space' mission.

Here, we take a look at the main events planned for the coming 12 months worldwide.

India is expected to surpass China as the most populous country in the world, as it is due to reach a population of over 1.4 billion. The gap between these two countries will begin to widen as China peaks and declines, while India continues to soar ahead. An earlier estimate by the UN had forecast India to reach this point by 2030. However, its population was subsequently found to be growing faster than expected.

In an exciting year for the country, India’s plans to send its first manned spacecraft into orbit could come to fruition this year. The Gaganyaan space craft, which can carry three people, was due to take off by the end of this year, but was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The authorities have said that through the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme, India is set to become the fourth nation to conduct independent human spaceflight after Russia, the United States and China.

Sticking to the space theme, The Dark Ages Radio Explorer (DARE) is set to be launched this year. A NASA spacecraft designed to investigate the early universe, between 80 million and 420 million years after the Big Bang, it will return data on the earliest black hole accretions, the reionisation of the universe, ancient galaxy formations and dark matter decay.

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The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing in February, making it the first city ever to host both the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics. China’s tight Covid protocols make it likely that spectators, if any, will be local only, with competitors expected to maintain strict protocols to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus outside of the Olympic bubble.

Germany will close down all of its remaining nuclear power plants by the end of this year. The final three plants will stop operating by the end of December 2022, while another three were decommissioned at the end of last year. Prior to this phasing out, nuclear power in Germany had produced a quarter of the country's electricity.

In Dubai, it was ambitiously billed just a couple of years ago that driverless hover taxis would take to the skies of the United Arab Emirates by 2022 - even before a single prototype has taken to the skies worldwide. While that science fiction-esque vision does not, realistically, look set to be realised in the next 12 months five driverless – albeit on terra firma - taxis took to the streets of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island last month, suggesting the the concept is still being worked on.

In less upbeat news, in Afghanistan, a country under significant political turmoil since the Taliban regained control five months ago, fears over severe food shortages remain. An estimated 22.8 million people — more than half the country’s population — are expected to face potentially life-threatening food insecurity this winter, with aid groups waning that a million children’s lives could be at risk. Droughts, coupled with crippling economic conditions, will see the country’s harvest reduce by a quarter, according to the United Nations World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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Meanwhile, in Europe, the refugee crisis continues. The end of 2021 saw growing numbers of refugees, mostly from the Middle East, attempt to cross the Channel. The number of people who attempted the crossing doubled to more than 26,000 in 2021, while in November, 27 people died when their inflatable dinghy sank in the Channel. In Belarus, refugees from the Middle East lined up at borders, with dictator Alexander Lukashenko accused of encouraging thousands of people from the Middle East to enter Europe via Belarus to manufacture a crisis, something the Belarusian government has denied. The EU and other western countries imposed extra sanctions on Belarus.

Belarus itself – a former Soviet nation – will continue to see months of political unrest as protests continue against the rule of Lukashenko. Belarusians have taken to the streets since the country’s election saw Lukashenko re-elected over a year ago for the sixth time. Lukashenko claimed victory in the elections, stating that he had 80 per cent of the vote, despite international claims of electoral fraud. The opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – who stepped in after the original candidate, her husband Sergei, was arrested, fled the country and has taken up residence with other members of the Belarusian opposition in Poland.

In the US, the mid term elections are due to be held in November. With the country as divided as ever, the poll will give further insight into the scale of the task ahead for candidates considering standing in the 2024 presidential race. Former president Donald Trump has not yet ruled himself out of standing for president again, with the mid-terms a good temperature check for how the electorate is feeling about the Democratic presidency of Joe Biden.

On 28 February, Egypt will celebrate 100 years of independence from the United Kingdom. The decision established an independent Kingdom of Egypt and brought Britain’s protectorate over Egypt, established in 1882, to a close. However, Britain continued to exert military control over Egypt until 1956.

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An independence referendum is scheduled to be held in Chuuk State in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2022. Originally scheduled to take place in March 2015, the referendum has been delayed three times. Whether it will take place this year remains to be seen.

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