What will the world look like in 2050? We live in a world characterised by increasing complexity and uncertainty. Climate change, biodiversity loss and resource scarcity threaten future generations. Meanwhile, digital technology, urbanisation and changing demographics will continue to transform communities, business and economies.
The four divergent futures – Humans Inc., Extinction Express, Greentocracy and Post Anthropocene – range from the collapse of our society and natural systems, to the two living in sustainable harmony.
- In ‘Humans Inc.’, global temperatures have exceeded the 2°C target and coordinated action on a global level continues to struggle. Here, increased frequency and severity of weather events continue to have a detrimental effect on our cities and ecosystems, yet technological advances have reduced poverty, improved education and ensured jobs are abundant.
- ‘Extinction Express’ details the dramatic decline in planetary health and human society, where global temperatures far exceed 2°C and the long-term inaction of society and continued exploitation of planetary resources have resulted in colonies on the moon and underwater.
- ‘Greentocracy’ shows an improvement in planetary health but this has been enabled by severe restrictions on human society: poor living conditions, conflict and authoritarian regimes prevail. The global mean temperature rise remains below 1.5°C due to climate action and fostering biodiversity being at the top of the agenda.
- ‘Post Anthropocene’, in this future, human society and planetary health exist in a harmonious relationship. Large-scale climate change consequences, such as 15% of artic sea ice melting, catalyse global cooperation on climate change action, helping the global mean temperature rise to remain below 1.5°C. Society only consumes resources at the rate at which can be replenished, and everyone has a carbon quota.
It is our aim, through sharing this report, to inform decisions on the design and planning of the built environment, and show how progress towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals can drive change for our planet and outlook for humanity.
The four scenarios that we have projected are each extreme yet plausible. To some they may seem alarmist, to others not extreme enough. In every case they help us gain a deeper understanding of both the opportunities and threats we are facing over the coming decades and possible pathways towards these futures. We have the power to shape our future, but which future do we actually want?”
We learn best when we can relate to a story and these four scenarios are stories about our possible tomorrows. These narratives should help us think more deeply about our relationship to the planet, which we all need not just to survive, but to thrive.”
How can we be better prepared for an uncertain future? By challenging our tendency to favour ‘business as usual’, scenarios can help decision-makers frame their strategic thinking, and test and refine strategic options.
Find out more about scenario planning