Megatrends 2021: Climate Crisis

Megatrends 2021: Climate Crisis

Perhaps the biggest existential threat humanity has ever faced, the climate crisis can be mitigated only with ambitious, innovative initiatives—and the project talent to make those plans reality.

Research from an array of organizations all points in the same direction: there will be more climate change— and it will happen faster. Humanity is at a crossroads. If we take the full range of measures needed to keep temperatures from rising less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981–2010 mean, the effects will still be manageable. If we do nothing, much of Earth could become uninhabitable.

Like the coronavirus, climate change also compounds social inequalities, with disadvantaged populations suffering disproportionately from its effects. Left unchecked, it will continue to exacerbate inequalities between the poor and the rich, dividing communities and nations.

The pressure to act is increasing—particularly from younger generations. Greta Thunberg and three other young climate change activists called on political leaders in July 2020 to stop talking and actually do something: “Our current system is not ‘broken’—the system is doing exactly what it’s supposed and designed to be doing. It can no longer be ‘fixed.’ We need a new system.”6

To truly make an impact, companies can’t focus on isolated problems within their operations, like where they source a material or manufacture a product. “This may simply shift the impact further downstream,” said Dame Clare Moriarty, London-based chair of the UK Health Foundation’s COVID-19 impact inquiry. Organizations that want to be leaders in addressing climate risk must consider the entire project life cycle, and establish tools and metrics to mitigate negative effects throughout the process. “It requires taking a holistic view and using that to shape how you address climate issues in ways that are relevant to your business.”

Case in point: Ecoluxe designer Stella McCartney began testing out a new tool from Google Cloud that uses data analytics and machine learning to give brands a more comprehensive view of their supply chain. For sustainability-driven McCartney, the project is an opportunity to lead the notoriously wasteful fashion industry in better measuring the impacts of its raw material sourcing on air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water scarcity.7


Read the previous megatrend: COVID-19

Read the next megatrend: Civil, Civic, and Equality Movements



6. “Open Letter and Demands to EU And Global Leaders,” The Climate Emergency Declaration, July 16, 2020.

7. “Most Influential Projects 2020: Stella McCartney Supply-Chain Pilot,” PM Network, September/October 2020.

150 Million
Global extreme poverty was expected to rise in 2020 for the first time in over 20 years as the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic compounds the forces of conflict and climate change. That could mean an additional 88 million to 115 million people moving into extreme poverty, with the total rising to as many as 150 million in 2021.
25% Larger
Climate change is increasing the gap between rich and poor. The ratio between the incomes of the richest and poorest 10% of the global population is 25% larger than it would be in a world without global warming.
  • Megatrends 2021

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Organizations that want to be leaders in addressing climate risk must consider the entire project life cycle.