Rob Swart is an independent consultant on climate change mitigation and adaptation. His clients have included the Austrian Climate Research Programme, the Environmental Protection Agency Ireland, and the European Commission, among others. He previously coordinated international climate research at Wageningen University and headed the European Topic Centre on Air and Climate Change of the European Environment Agency (EEA). He has been extensively involved in the work of the IPCC, as lead author for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Assessments, as Head of the Technical Support Unit of the Mitigation Working Group III during the 3rd Assessment, and as lead author of the WGIII and Synthesis reports during the 4th Assessment. He holds a MSc in environmental engineering from Delft University of Technology and a PhD in climate risks assessment from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
A Contribution to the Forum After the Pandemic: Which Future?
The planetary phase of history has begun, but the future shape of global society remains profoundly uncertain. Though perhaps improbable, a shift toward a planetary civilization of enriched lives, human solidarity, and environmental sustainability is still possible. This treatise examines the historic roots of this fateful crossroads, analyzes alternative scenarios that can emerge from contemporary forces and contradictions, and points to strategies and choices for advancing a Great Transition. It synthesizes the insights of the Global Scenario Group, convened in 1995 by the Tellus Institute and Stockholm Environment Institute to explore the requirements for a sustainable and desirable future.
This paper analyzes the prospects for sustainability within the confines of Conventional Worlds scenarios. The shift to more sustainable forms of development must at least begin at this level, although we will likely need more fundamental social changes to complete the transition to a sustainable global society. The paper introduces social and environmental targets as well as strategic policies for reaching them. It shows both the great potential for progress and the daunting challenges within a growth-driven development paradigm.
This paper introduces scenario methods and a framework for envisioning global futures. It depicts contrasting world development scenarios, all compatible with current patterns and trends, but with sharply different implications for the quest for sustainability in the twenty-first century. Three broad scenario classes are depicted—Conventional Worlds, Barbarization, and Great Transitions—which are characterized by, respectively, essential continuity with current patterns, fundamental but degenerative social change, and fundamental and progressive social transformation.