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Governance in socioeconomic pathways and its role for future adaptive capacity


Weak governance is one of the key obstacles for sustainable development. Undoubtedly, improvement of governance comes with a broad range of co-benefits, including countries’ abilities to respond to pressing global challenges such as climate change. However, beyond the qualitative acknowledgement of its importance, quantifications of future pathways of governance are still lacking. This study provides projections of future governance in line with the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways. We find that under a ‘rocky road’ scenario, 30% of the global population would still live in countries characterized by weak governance in 2050, while under a ‘green road’ scenario, weak governance would be almost entirely overcome over the same time frame. On the basis of pathways for governance, we estimate the adaptive capacity of countries to climate change. Limits to adaptive capacity exist even under optimistic pathways beyond mid-century. Our findings underscore the importance of accounting for governance in assessments of climate change impacts.

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Fig. 1: Evolution of governance over the twenty-first century.
Fig. 2: Country groups and population-weighted projections.
Fig. 3: Rates of change of governance.
Fig. 4: Projections of the ND-GAIN adaptation readiness score.

Data availability

Governance data are available on the Worldwide Governance Indicators website ( Historical GDP was obtained from the Penn World Tables 7.0 ( and projected values through the IIASA SSP database ( Data on educational attainment and gender equality in education are accessible through the Data Explorer of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (

Code availability

Code underlying the results is available at


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We are grateful to the scientific community for developing the SSP scenarios and to the International Institute for Advanced System Analysis for hosting the SSP database. M.A. and C.-F.S. acknowledge support by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (01LN1711A).

Author information




The research was designed by M.A., J.C.C. and C.-F.S. M.A. performed the analysis and created the display items. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marina Andrijevic.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–3 and Figs. 1–7.

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Andrijevic, M., Crespo Cuaresma, J., Muttarak, R. et al. Governance in socioeconomic pathways and its role for future adaptive capacity. Nat Sustain 3, 35–41 (2020).

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