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The world in 2050

November 9, 2012

We have been surprised by an upsurge in interest in long term thinking to 2050. This has prompted us to start to pull together a number of scenarios, reports and projections. Here are some of them – and if you are looking for a specific topic not mentioned below, please contact us.
The basic projection is from the UN’s Population Division. Population has historically been reasonably straightforward – excluding wars and major disasters. But now the forecasts of population for 2050 are for 8.9 billion or – if the move to cities accelerates, and longevity does not extend, a forecast of 7.4 billion. On the other hand if longevity does extend and the move to cities does not lead to a decrease in family size, maybe 10.6 billion. This degree of uncertainty is unprecedented, and the graph can be found in the “In Safe Hands” report on the SAMI web site, http://www.samiconsulting.co.uk.
Energy scenarios are often used as a basis for modelling – an IEA Report pulls together and a range of 2050 technology dependent energy scenarios, see http://www.iea.org/Textbase/nptoc/etp2012toc.pdf, the Shell scenarios http://www.shell.com/home/content/future_energy/scenarios/2050/ tackle the challenge “more energy, less carbon dioxide”, and the World Energy Council’s 2007 report around energy policies http://www.worldenergy.org/documents/scenarios_study_es_online.pdf remains a good source, as does the OECD report from 2004 on the inter-relation between energy policy and climate change: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/energy/energy-to-2050-scenarios-for-a-sustainable-future_9789264019058-en
The World Energy Council have also produced scenarios for the future of transport to 2050 – http://www.worldenergy.org/documents/transportation_study_final_online.pdf and there are a number of regional sets of scenarios linking energy and transport such as the Australian work, http://www.csiro.au/en/Organisation-Structure/Flagships/Energy-Transformed-Flagship/What-might-the-future-hold-Exploring-qualitative-scenarios-for-energy-and-transport-in-Australia-to-2050.aspx.
The European Commission have published a set of global scenarios for 2050, with an EU focus: ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/pdf/global-europe-2050.
The underlying trends and drivers of change have been brought together in a volume of twenty chapters by Economist contributors, charting the rise and fall of fertility rates across continents; how energy resources will change in light of new technology, and how different nations will deal with major developments in science and warfare. The book is called Megachange: The world in 2050 – it is worth a read for anybody interested in strategic thinking.
If you have found good researched scenario sets in addition to those above, please share them with us and we will publicise them via a future eSAMI.

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