Driving forces

Economic development
Human development
Science and technology

Earlier chapters of this report have reviewed present conditions and trends in a number of socio-economic factors that are driving environmental change. How these factors evolve will shape global and regional development and the state of the environment far into the future. Trends may continue as they have in the past or change speed and direction perhaps even going into reverse. Trends may lead to convergence or divergence between circumstances in different regions of the world. Trends in one region or responses to one driving force may oppose others that originate elsewhere, or they may run up against absolute physical limits.

The scenarios explored in the pages that follow are based on certain assumptions about how these driving forces will evolve and interact with developing situations, potential future shocks and human choices. This section briefly describes the assumptions made about driving forces underlying the scenarios and, in particular, how these assumptions differ from scenario to scenario. For descriptions of the scenarios see the next section.

The seven driving forces under consideration are demography, economic development, human development, science and technology, governance, culture and environment. The environment is included as a driving force because it is more than a passive receptacle for change. Just as the assumptions about human and societal behaviour shape the scenarios, so do the assumptions about pressures exerted by the environment.

Developments arising from each of the driving forces will not unfold in isolation from one another. Issues will interweave and chains of cause and effect are likely to be hard to trace back to individual sources. Finally, any number of possible future trends could be constructed from the available array of variables. Narrowing down this range to a small yet richly contrasting set of futures that are consistent, plausible, recognizable and challenging, depends on starting out with an intelligent set of assumptions.