Perspective | Published:

Forecasting societies' adaptive capacities through a demographic metabolism model

Nature Climate Change volume 7, pages 177184 (2017) | Download Citation

  • An Erratum to this article was published on 05 April 2017

This article has been updated

Abstract

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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Change history

  • 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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Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW and WU), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria

    • Wolfgang Lutz
    •  & Raya Muttarak

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Contributions

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

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Raya Muttarak.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3222

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