Instead of smoothly rising temperatures and steadily increasing extremes, they are examining whether the trend may be increasingly “nonlinear” or bumpy as a result of knock-on effects from drought or ice melt in the Arctic. 

The Guardian, July 2021

The last days of global temperature norms?

The fatal deluge in Germany and other low lying European countries was ‘just’ another ‘unprecedented’ weather event – but how many more events like this can the world notch up without becoming accustomed to the unacceptable?

Some experts fear recent catastrophes indicate the climate system may have crossed a dangerous threshold and the temperature trend will be increasingly nonlinear – requiring weather forecasters to better model for nonlinear events.

What happened

Tens of thousands of homes in the Rhine basin were obliterated by torrential rain that smashed all previous records. At least 58 people were killed and even climate scientists who have been predicting extreme weather events will occur with more frequency were shocked by the extent and speed of the untypical deluge.

The new normal

So frequent are the unprecedented extreme weather events they risk not being newsworthy. The recent record temperatures in the Arctic, world breaking temperatures in North America and Chinese floods that left a million people displaced and 68 dead, show these are not isolated or unrelated catastrophes.

City limits

Cities and towns will need to adjust their buildings and infrastructure to be able to withstand devastating climate impacts –underground transport tunnels that won’t flood, roads and bridges that can prevent cars being swept along, buildings that can accept floodwaters and then recover – city planners will have to imagine the unimaginable. And plan for living in a new environment.

Megatrend watch: climate and resource security


This update is part of our Megatrends Watch series, which tracks developments that inform our six global megatrends….

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What are megatrends and how they are shaping the future of business?

Impactful Technology

Accelerating individualisation

Demographic change
Rapid urbanisation
Climate and resource security
Economic power shift