Forecasting societies' adaptive capacities through a demographic metabolism model

An Erratum to this article was published on 05 April 2017

This article has been updated


In seeking to understand how future societies will be affected by climate change we cannot simply assume they will be identical to those of today, because climate and societies are both dynamic. Here we propose that the concept of demographic metabolism and the associated methods of multi-dimensional population projections provide an effective analytical toolbox to forecast important aspects of societal change that affect adaptive capacity. We present an example of how the changing educational composition of future populations can influence societies' adaptive capacity. Multi-dimensional population projections form the human core of the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways scenarios, and knowledge and analytical tools from demography have great value in assessing the likely implications of climate change on future human well-being.

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Figure 1
Figure 2: Age and education pyramids for the Republic of Korea 1970–2030 in 20-year intervals.
Figure 3: World population scenarios by level of educational attainment to 2100 on the basis of Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP1, SSP2, SSP3).

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  • 02 March 2017

    Owing to technical problems, this Perspective was published online later than the date given in the print version. The published date should read '2 March 2017', and is correct in the online versions.


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Partial support for this work was provided by the European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grant entitled 'Forecasting Societies' Adaptive Capacities to Climate Change' (ERC-2008-AdG 230195-FutureSoc). We would like to thank Samir KC and Nadia Steiber for their comments and input in the preparation of the manuscript.

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W.L. and R.M. contributed equally in the conception of the work, drafting and revising the manuscript. Author names are listed alphabetically.

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Correspondence to Raya Muttarak.

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Lutz, W., Muttarak, R. Forecasting societies' adaptive capacities through a demographic metabolism model. Nature Clim Change 7, 177–184 (2017).

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