Global Scenario Group

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The Global Scenario Group (GSG) was an international, interdisciplinary body convened in 1995 by the Tellus Institute and the Stockholm Environment Institute to develop scenarios for world development in the twenty-first century.[1]

The GSG’s underlying scenario development work was rooted in the long-range integrated scenario analysis that Tellus Institute and Stockholm Environment Institute had undertaken through the PoleStar Project. Initially conceived in 1991 as a tool for integrated sustainability planning and long-range scenario analysis, PoleStar was inspired by the 1987 Brundtland Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, which first put the concept of “sustainable development” on the international agenda.[2]

The work of the Global Scenario Group was widely adopted in high-level intergovernmental settings. The scenarios informed numerous international assessments, including the World Water Council’s World Water Vision report in 1999-2000,[3] the OECD Environmental Outlook in 2001,[4] the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Green House Gas emission mitigation assessment in 2001,[5] the United Nations Environment Programme’s Third GEO Report in 2002,[6] and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005.[7] Several of the GSG participants who actively participated in the IPCC assessments have been recognized for contributing to the 2007 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC.[8]


In 2002, the GSG formally presented their scenario approach in an essay called Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead.[9] In the essay, the Great Transition scholars indicate that civilization is currently at a turning point, entering a Planetary Phase of Civilization in which different values regarding the environment, human well-being, and global justice might lead to different scenarios for future development. Three classes of scenarios are discussed – Conventional Worlds, Barbarization, and Great Transitions.

Conventional Worlds[edit]

The Conventional Worlds scenarios predict a future which unfolds without major surprises and with the continuity of present values. Market forces, new technologies, and policy adjustments allay environmental pressures as they arise.

Market Forces: The “invisible hand” of the free market corrects for inefficiency and thus staves off environmental crisis.

Policy Reform: Policy changes continually aim for sustainability by enforcing environmental efficiency wherever possible.


Breakdown: The world descends into conflict and collapse.

Fortress World: In the face of environmental collapse, the international elite retreat to protected enclaves where they manage remaining natural resources and protect their interests. Outside these enclaves, the remainder of civilization endures poverty and degradation.

The Great Transition[edit]

The Great Transition scenarios are more than simply market and policy adjustments. They are futures in which fundamental societal values change – materialism and self-interest decline, replaced by human solidarity and environmental sustainability. The potential of a Great Transition is linked to the emergence of a global citizens movement to advocate for new values to underpin global society.

Eco-Communalism is characterized by localism and civil society.

New Sustainability Paradigm is characterized by population stabilization, lower consumerism, and greener values. Civilization has a smaller ecological footprint and its members live healthier, more equitable lives.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Global Scenario Group - About
  2. ^ PoleStar Project - Background
  3. ^ "World Water Council - Vision Report Chapter 3" (PDF). p. 45. Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Highlights of the OECD Environmental Outlook" (PDF). p. 7. Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "IPCC Third Assessment Report - Climate Change 2001 - Working Group III: Mitigation". Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "Global Environment Outlook Scenario Framework: Background Paper for UNEP's Third Global Environment Outlook Report" (PDF). Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  7. ^ "Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: A Framework for Assessment - Chapter 7" (PDF). p. 168. Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007
  9. ^ Essay Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead

External links[edit]