Club of Rome

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The Club of Rome
Founded1968 by Aurelio Peccei, Alexander King
Co-Presidents: Sandrine Dixson-Declève and Paul Shrivastava
FieldsGlobal warming, Well-being, Humanitarian challenges

The Club of Rome is a nonprofit, informal organization of intellectuals and business leaders whose goal is a critical discussion of pressing global issues. The Club of Rome was founded in 1968 at Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, Italy. It consists of one hundred full members selected from current and former heads of state and government, UN administrators, high-level politicians and government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists, and business leaders from around the globe.[1] It stimulated considerable public attention in 1972 with the first report to the Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth. Since 1 July 2008, the organization has been based in Winterthur, Switzerland.



In 1965, the Italian industrialist Aurelio Peccei gave a speech about the dramatic scientific and technological changes happening in the world. The speech was noticed by Alexander King, a British scientist who had advised the British government, and who was currently serving as Director-General for Scientific Affairs at the OECD.[2] King arranged a meeting with Peccei. The pair shared a lack of confidence that the problems faced by the world could be solved by development and technological progress.

In April 1968, Peccei and King convened a small international group of people from the fields of academia, civil society, diplomacy, and industry met at Villa Farnesina in Rome. The background paper to set the tone of the meeting was entitled "A tentative framework for initiating system wide planning of world scope", by Austrian OECD consultant Erich Jantsch. However, the meeting was described as a "monumental flop", with discussions becoming bogged down in technical and semantic debates.[3]

After the meeting, Peccei, King, Jantsch and Hugo Thiemann decided to form the Club of Rome, named for the city of their meeting.[4]

First steps[edit]

Central to the formation of the club was Peccei's concept of the problematic. It was his opinion that viewing the problems of humankind—environmental deterioration, poverty, endemic ill-health, urban blight, criminality—individually, in isolation or as "problems capable of being solved in their own terms", was doomed to failure. All are interrelated. "It is this generalized meta-problem (or meta-system of problems) which we have called and shall continue to call the 'problematic' that inheres in our situation."[5]: 12–13 

In October 1968, the OECD held a symposium in Bellagio, Italy, in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, at which several new members joined the Club. The symposium focused on the dangers of exponential growth—which by its nature cannot continue forever—and ended with participants signing "The Bellagio Declaration on Planning", which emphasized the need to overcome global problems through coordination.[3]

For a brief period, the Club's ideas held sway within the OECD, thanks to King's efforts in promoting the group's work. When Secretary General Thorkil Kristensen formed a group of ten science and economic experts in 1969 to study problems for modern societies, four of the ten were members of the Club of Rome.[3]

In 1970, Peccei's vision was laid out in a document written by Hasan Özbekhan, Erich Jantsch, and Alexander Christakis. Entitled, The Predicament of Mankind; Quest for Structured Responses to Growing Worldwide Complexities and Uncertainties: A PROPOSAL.[5] The document would serve as the roadmap for the Limits to Growth project.

The Limits to Growth[edit]

The Club of Rome stimulated considerable public attention with the first report to the club, The Limits to Growth.[6] Published in 1972, its computer simulations suggested that economic growth could not continue indefinitely because of resource depletion. The 1973 oil crisis increased public concern about this problem. The report went on to sell 30 million copies in more than 30 languages, making it the best-selling environmental book in history.[7]

Though the Club of Rome had enjoyed some influence at the OECD, their questioning of the value of growth "deepened the internal fractures within the OECD and provoked hostile reactions, leading to a revitalization of the strong pro-growth position." A 1973 booklet on the OECD's approach to environmental issues stated that the role of governments in "an acceptable human environment must now be developed in the framework of policies for economic growth". The OECD had given up on the Club of Rome, and set its course on a trajectory of unfettered growth.[3]


Even before The Limits to Growth was published, Eduard Pestel and Mihajlo Mesarovic of Case Western Reserve University had begun work on a far more elaborate model (it distinguished ten world regions and involved 200,000 equations compared with 1,000 in the Meadows model). The research had the full support of the club and its final publication, Mankind at the Turning Point, was accepted as the official "second report" to the Club of Rome in 1974.[8][9] In addition to providing a more refined regional breakdown, Pestel and Mesarovic had succeeded in integrating social as well as technical data. The second report revised the scenarios of the original Limits to Growth and gave a more optimistic prognosis for the future of the environment, noting that many of the factors involved were within human control and therefore that environmental and economic catastrophe were preventable or avoidable.

In 1991, the club published The First Global Revolution.[10] It analyses the problems of humanity, calling these collectively or in essence the "problematique". It notes that, historically, social or political unity has commonly been motivated by enemies in common:

The need for enemies seems to be a common historical factor. Some states have striven to overcome domestic failure and internal contradictions by blaming external enemies. The ploy of finding a scapegoat is as old as mankind itself—when things become too difficult at home, divert attention to adventure abroad. Bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one, or else one invented for the purpose. With the disappearance of the traditional enemy, the temptation is to use religious or ethnic minorities as scapegoats, especially those whose differences from the majority are disturbing.[11]: 70 

...Every state has been so used to classifying its neighbours as friend or foe, that the sudden absence of traditional adversaries has left governments and public opinion with a great void to fill. New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined, and new weapons devised.[11]: 70 

In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.[11]: 115 

In 2001 the Club of Rome established a think tank, called tt30, consisting of about 30 men and women, ages 25–35. It aimed to identify and solve problems in the world, from the perspective of youth.[citation needed]

In 2008, the club moved its headquarters from Hamburg to Winterthur in Switzerland.[12]


According to its website, the Club of Rome is composed of "scientists, economists, businessmen, international high civil servants, heads of state and former heads of state from all five continents who are convinced that the future of humankind is not determined once and for all and that each human being can contribute to the improvement of our societies."

The Club of Rome is a membership organization and has different membership categories.[13] Full members engage in the research activities, projects, and contribute to decision-making processes during the club's annual general assembly. Of the full members, 12 are elected to form the executive committee, which sets the general direction and the agenda.[14] Of the executive committee, two are elected as co-presidents and two as vice-presidents. The secretary-general is elected from the members of the executive committee. The secretary-general is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the club from its headquarters in Winterthur, Switzerland. Aside from full members there are associate members, who participate in research and projects, but have no vote in the general assembly.[15] The club has a satellite office in Brussels.[16]

The club also has honorary members. Notable honorary members include Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Orio Giarini, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mikhail Gorbachev, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Horst Köhler, and Manmohan Singh.[17]

The annual general assembly of 2016 took place in Berlin on 10–11 November. Among the guest speakers were former German President Christian Wulff, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller, as well as Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus.

National associations[edit]

The club has national associations in 35 countries and territories.[18] The mission of the national associations is to spread the ideas and vision in their respective countries, to offer solutions and to lobby for a more sustainable and just economy in their nations, and to support the international secretariat of the club with the organization of events, such as the annual general assembly.[19]

Current activities[edit]

As of 2017 there have been 43 reports to the club.[20] These are internally reviewed studies commissioned by the executive committee, or suggested by a member or group of members, or by outside individuals and institutions. The most recent as of 2018 is Come On! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet.[21]

In 2016, the club initiated a new youth project called "Reclaim Economics". With this project they support students, activists, intellectuals, artists, video-makers, teachers, professors and others to "shift the teaching of economics away from the mathematical pseudo-science it has become."[22]

On 14 March 2019, the Club of Rome issued an official statement in support of Greta Thunberg and the school strikes for climate, urging governments across the world to respond to this call for action and cut global carbon emissions.[23]

In 2020, the Earth4All initiative was launched at the UNFCCC Race-to-Zero Dialogues session on Transformational Leadership to explore potential transformational political and economic solutions for the 21st century. Led by the Club of Rome, the BI Norwegian Business School and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, a group of researchers and policymakers assessed global risks and identified five pathways to catalyze transformation and systemic change towards sustainability: energy, food, poverty, inequality and population (including health and education). The results are published in the book "Earth for All" in 2022 alongside the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Summit in Stockholm and the initial publication of the Limits to Growth in 1972.[24][25][26]


From the 1970s, the Club of Rome attracted substantial criticism. Economist Robert Solow, recipient of a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, criticized The Limits to Growth (LTG) as having "simplistic" scenarios. He has also been a vocal critic of the Club of Rome. In 2002 he said that "the one thing that really annoys me is amateurs making absurd statements about economics, and I thought that the Club of Rome was nonsense. Not because natural resources or environmental necessities might not at some time pose a limit, not on growth, but on the level of economic activity—I didn't think that was a nonsensical idea—but because the Club of Rome was doing amateur dynamics without a license, without a proper qualification. And they were doing it badly, so I got steamed up about that."[27] However, in 2009, Solow suggested that "Thirty years later, the situation may have changed. It is possible that real demands on natural resources, and therefore on the natural environment, will be dramatically different in a world in which India and China, and other countries, too, grow at 8 or 10 percent a year, and need to pass through the material-goods-intensive phase of growth before they arrive at the service economy... it will probably be more important in the future to deal intellectually, quantitatively, as well as practically, with the mutual interdependence of economic growth, natural resource availability, and environmental constraints."[28]

An analysis of the world model used for The Limits to Growth in 1976 by mathematicians Vermeulen and De Jongh has shown it to be "very sensitive to small parameter variations" and having "dubious assumptions and approximations".[29]

In 1973, an interdisciplinary team at Sussex University's Science Policy Research Unit reviewed the structure and assumptions of the models used and published their analysis in Models of Doom, finding that the forecasts of the world's future are very sensitive to a few unduly pessimistic key assumptions. The Sussex scientists also wrote that the Dennis Meadows et al. methods, data, and predictions were faulty, that their world models (and their Malthusian bias) did not accurately reflect reality.[30]

Economist Thomas Sowell, in his 1995 book The Vision of the Anointed, describes economist John Kenneth Galbraith, biologist Paul R. Ehrlich, the Club of Rome and Worldwatch Institute as "the anointed", declaring that "they were utterly certain in their predictions, yet completely disproven empirically, though their reputations remained perfectly undamaged".[31] According to the National Review, he describes them "promoters of a worldview concocted out of fantasy, impervious to any real-world considerations".[32]

The Club of Rome garnered "serious criticism" in 2016 after promoting the idea of a one-child policy for industrialized countries, in its pamphlet titled "Reinventing Prosperity".[33] With PhD Reiner Klingholz, stating of the Club's pamphlet, "this is pure nonsense", as acting chairman of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, an institute focused on sustainable development, citing the stable replacement rate of 2.1 not being met in Europe, at that time standing "already as low as 1.5".[33]


In contrast, John Scales Avery, a member of Nobel Peace Prize (1995) winning group associated with the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, supported the basic thesis of The Limits to Growth by stating, "Although the specific predictions of resource availability in [The] Limits to Growth lacked accuracy, its basic thesis – that unlimited economic growth on a finite planet is impossible – was indisputably correct."[34]

In 1980, United States president Jimmy Carter commissioned the Global 2000 Report to the President, which undertook a long-term global economic modelling exercise similar to the Club of Rome's research. The report arrived at similar conclusions regarding expected global resource scarcity, and the need for multilateral coordination to prepare for this situation.[35]

Over the years, various studies have supported aspects of Club of Rome research. In 2008, a study by Graham Turner of the Australian research organisation CSIRO found that "30 years of historical data compare favorably with key features of a business-as-usual scenario called the "standard run" scenario, which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st century."[36] In 2020, econometrician Gaya Herrington published a study in the Yale University's Journal of Industrial Ecology which concluded that all economic data since the 1970s was consistent with the World3 BAU scenario in Limits to Growth, which could mean that rapid degrowth would occur after 2040.[37][38][39]

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The First Global Revolution". The Green Agenda. 2005-11-19. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
  2. ^ Suter, Keith (1999). "Fair Warning?: The Club of Rome Revisited". Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  3. ^ a b c d Schmelzer, Matthias (2017). "'Born in the corridors of the OECD': the forgotten origins of the Club of Rome, transnational networks, and the 1970s in global history". Journal of Global History. 12 (1): 26–48. doi:10.1017/S1740022816000322. ISSN 1740-0228. S2CID 164497528.
  4. ^ "History: 1968". Club of Rome. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  5. ^ a b "The Predicament of Mankind" (PDF). 1970. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2016-05-13.
  6. ^ Meadows, Dennis. "30-Year Update of Limits to Growth finds global society in "Overshoot", Foresees social, economic, and environmental decline" (PDF). Club of Rome. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  7. ^ Simmons, Matthew R. (October 2000). "Revisiting The Limits to Growth: Could the Club of Rome Have Been Correct After All?" (PDF). Mud City Press. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  8. ^ Mesarovic, Mihajlo; Pestel, Eduard (1975). Mankind at the Turning Point. Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-123471-9.
  9. ^ Mihram, Arthur (January 1977). "Mankind at the Turning Point by Mihajlo Mesarovic and Eduard Pestel". IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. Haverford, PA: 73–74. doi:10.1109/TSMC.1977.4309596. S2CID 1032294. Retrieved 2019-08-13.
  10. ^ "The First Global Revolution (Club of Rome) 1993 Edition". Scribd. 2008-03-17. Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
  11. ^ a b c King, Alexander; Schneider, Bertrand (1993). The First Global Revolution. The Club of Rome. pp. 70, 115.
  12. ^ "Club of Rome hat eine neue Heimat gefunden". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 2023-02-03.
  13. ^ "Membership". Club of Rome. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  14. ^ "Executive Committee". Club of Rome. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  15. ^ "Associate Members". Club of Rome. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  16. ^ "History". Club of Rome. Retrieved 2023-02-03.
  17. ^ "Honorary Members". Club of Rome. Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  18. ^ "National Associations". Club of Rome. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  19. ^ "Annual Conference 2016". The Club of Rome. Archived from the original on 2018-01-26. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  20. ^ "Reports". Club of Rome. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  21. ^ von Weizsäcker, Ernst Ulrich; Wijkman, Anders (2018). Come On! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet. New York: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-7419-1. ISBN 978-1-4939-7418-4. S2CID 199492894. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  22. ^ "Reclaim Economics". Club of Rome. Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  23. ^ Alao, Sadikou Ayo [in German]; Alvarez-Pereira, Carlos; Andersen, Lene Rachel; AtKisson, Alan; Bamela Engo-Tjega, Ruth; Bardi, Ugo; Bastioli, Catia [in Italian]; Bateson, Nora; Benedikter, Roland [in German]; Berg, Christian [in German]; Bindé, Jérôme [in Dutch]; Björkman, Tomas; Blom, Peter [in Dutch]; Bologna, Gianfranco; Bozesan, Mariana; Brown, Peter G.; Chacón Domínguez, Susana Catalina; Cheng, Yi-Heng; Costanza, Robert; de Leeuw, Bas; Dixson-Declève, Sandrine; Dorsey, Michael K.; Dubee, Frederick C.; Dubrulle, Mark; Dunlop, Ian T.; Fainé Casas, Isidro [in Spanish]; Fullerton, John B.; Gasparini, Alberto; Geier, Joerg; Georgescu, Călin; Gil-Valdivia, Gerardo; Giovannini, Enrico; Girardet, Herbert; Göpel, Maja [in German]; Güvenen, Orhan [in Turkish]; Gurgulino de Souza, Heitor [in Breton]; Halonen, Tarja Kaarina; Hamilton, Carolyn; Hargroves, Karlson "Charlie"; Hayashi, Yoshitsugu; Heinonen, Sirkka; Hennicke, Peter [in German]; Hernández Colón, Rafael; Herren, Hans Rudolf; Higgs, Kerryn; Hoffman, Robert; Hudson, Cecil Ivan; Hughes, Barry B. (2019-03-14). "Statement in support of global student climate protests" (PDF). Winterthur, Switzerland: Club of Rome. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-03-24. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  24. ^ Kellerhoff, Till, ed. (2020-11-19). "New initiative on transformational economics, EarthforAll, launched". The Club of Rome. Archived from the original on 2022-08-30. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  25. ^ "Earth for all – A survival guide to humanity". The Club of Rome. 2022. Archived from the original on 2022-08-30. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  26. ^ Dixson-Declève, Sandrine; Gaffney, Owen; Ghosh, Jayati; Randers, Jørgen; Rockström, Johan; Espen Stocknes, Per (2022-09-22). Earth for All: A Survival Guide for Humanity. New Society Publishers. ISBN 978-0-86571986-6. ISBN 0-86571986-1. Archived from the original on 2022-08-30. Retrieved 2022-08-30. (208 pages)
  27. ^ Clement, Douglas (2002-09-01). "Interview with Robert Solow". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Archived from the original on 2019-11-16. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  28. ^ Solow, Robert M. (2009-12-01). "Does Growth Have a Future? Does Growth Theory Have a Future? Are These Questions Related?". History of Political Economy. 41 (Suppl_1): 27–34. doi:10.1215/00182702-2009-014. ISSN 0018-2702.
  29. ^ Vermeulen, P. J.; De Jongh, D. C. J. (1976-06-29). "Parameter sensitivity of the 'Limits to Growth' world model". Applied Mathematical Modelling. 1 (1): 29–32. doi:10.1016/0307-904X(76)90021-4.
  30. ^ Cole, H. S. D. (1973). Models of doom; a critique of The limits to growth. USA: Universe Books. p. 244 p., illus. ISBN 0-87663184-7. OL 5312431M.
  31. ^ Sowell, Thomas (1995). The Vision of the Anointed. Basic Books. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-0-465-08995-6.
  32. ^ George, Robert P. (1995-10-23). "The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy". National Review. Archived from the original on 2009-11-27. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
  33. ^ a b "Having fewer children: A solution for climate change?". Deutsche Welle. 2017-07-14.
  34. ^ Avery, John Scales (2012). Information Theory and Evolution. Singapore: World Scientific. p. 233. ISBN 978-981-4401-22-7.
  35. ^ Pierre, Andrew J. (Spring 1981). "Capsule Review - The Global 2000 Report to the President. Vol. I: Entering the Twenty-First Century. Vol. II: The Technical Report". Foreign Affairs". Foreign Affairs. 59 (Spring 1981).
  36. ^ Turner, Graham M. (2008). "A comparison of The Limits to Growth with 30 years of reality" (PDF). Global Environmental Change. 18 (3): 397–411. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2008.05.001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-09-13. Retrieved 2016-05-13.
  37. ^ Helmore, Edward (2021-07-25). "Yep, it's bleak, says expert who tested 1970s end-of-the-world prediction". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  38. ^ Ahmed, Nafeez (2021-07-14). "MIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century. New Research Shows We're on Schedule". Vice. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  39. ^ Rosane, Olivia (2021-07-26). "1972 Warning of Civilizational Collapse Was on Point, New Study Finds". EcoWatch. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  40. ^ a b "The story of the Club of Rome". Club of Rome. Archived from the original on 2013-05-31. Retrieved 2013-05-27.
  41. ^ "List of Honorary Members". Club of Rome. Archived from the original on 2019-12-14. Retrieved 2019-04-04.
  42. ^ Gabor, Dennis; Colombo, Umberto; King, Alexander; Galli, Riccardo (1978). Club of Rome: Beyond the Age of Waste. Pergamon Press. ISBN 0-08-021834-2.
  43. ^ "Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands". Club of Rome. Archived from the original on 2022-03-01. Retrieved 2024-04-18.
  44. ^ Fallece Ricardo Díez Hochleitner, Presidente de Honor del Club Roma

External links[edit]