What’s ahead for the 21st Century?

As great shifts and tides shape a new global reality there are indications that this century is going to be an extraordinarily challenging one. To start with we are in the midst of a historically unprecedented demographic transition. Humankind’s burgeoning numbers and our impact on the natural world is on a scale never before experienced in human history, the ramifications of which are going to affect each and every one of us.

DSC_0418Urban growth is expected to double the number of city dwellers by 2030 with most of the urban development taking place in Africa and Asia, and with two-thirds of the world’s people expected to be living in urban areas by 2050, the number of mega-cities is expected to increase exponentially.

Growing wealth disparities are causing social tensions in parts of the world. Rising unemployment put jobs at the top of the Rio +20 agenda. And with an estimated 8.2 billion people on the planet by 2030 there will be a greater demand for resources – water demand will have increased by 30%, food demand by 50% and energy demand by 50%.

By 2025 it is expected that gas will have overtaken oil as the world’s most important energy source, a gas economy being transitional to a hydrogen economy.

We have entered a “Heat Age” with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) AR5 (Fifth Assessment Report) providing scenarios that range from a mitigation scenario (421 ppm) in which there is 0.3 – 1.7 degrees Centigrade of warming to a scenario with very high greenhouse gas emissions (936 ppm) with increased temperatures of between 2.6 – 4.8 degrees Centigrade.

In an era of carbon constraint there could be a global price on carbon and fierce competition can be expected among the 40-odd countries that produce most of the world’s greenhouse gas for the remaining carbon space.

In these and other respects the rulebook is changing. For now no definitive single future is presenting itself and instead there is a range of possible futures or envelopes of change that are defining this century. These volatile waves of change will likely intensify, dramatically reshaping the world as we know it especially in the geopolitical and macroeconomic landscapes.