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16 Examples of Global Change

Global change is change to the environment, human society and economy that occur at planetary-scale. In many of these changes there is a clear pattern that change accelerates around the year 1950. This is related to the pace of technological advancement and population growth. Significant global changes can be identified that appear to be exponential or hyperbolic such that they do not appear to be sustainable. The following are examples of global change.


World population was 1.78 billion in 1910 and 6.90 billion in 2010. This represents a 100 year growth rate of 387% meaning that population almost quadrupled in a century.

Urban Population

People are moving to cities with 54.827% of the global population living in an urban area in 2017.


In 1980, world GDP was 27.952 trillion this grew to 76.681 trillion by 2016 (constant 2010 dollars). This represents a growth rate of 274% meaning that GDP adjusted for inflation almost tripled in the span of 36 years.
Note: chart above is in 1990 international dollars

International Tourists

Between 1950 and 2016 international tourist arrivals rose from 25.3 million to 1.235 billion. This is an increase of 4,881%.

Energy Use

Global energy use increased from 148.19 exajoules in 1958 to 533.37 exajoules in 2008. In other words, energy use more than tripled in 50 years.

Nitrous Oxide

Over the past 800,000 years, concentrations of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere rarely exceeded 280 ppb. Levels began to rise with the industrial revolution beginning around 1860. By 2015, they were 328 ppb, or about 17% higher than the historical 280 ppb level.


Methane in Earth's atmosphere has more than doubled from 875 ppb in 1900 to 1850 ppb in 2017.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has increased from 296 ppm in 1900 to 406 ppm in 2017. This represents an increase of 37%.

Global Temperature

Average global temperatures relative to the 1951-1980 average. In the entire period 1880 - 1939 there wasn't a single year warmer than this average. Currently, there hasn't been a year colder than this average since 1976 with every year after that being warmer than average in an ever increasing pattern. In 2017, it was 0.9°C warmer than average.

Ocean Acidification

Ocean acidification has increased from 6.9695 nmol kg-1 in 1950 to 8.2111 nmol kg-1 in 2010 (expressed as global average surface hydrogen ion concentration).

Marine Fish Capture

Marine fish capture increased by 578% from 14 million tonnes in 1950 to 81 million tonnes in 2015.

Water Use

Water use increased from 0.721 thousand kilometers3 in 1910 to 3.871 thousand kilometers3 in 2010. This is more than a fivefold increase.

Paper Production

Paper production increased more than fivefold between 1961 and 2016 from 74 million tones to 411 million tonnes.

Fertilizer Consumption

Fertilizer consumption increased from 1.654 million tonnes in 1914 to 181.9 million tonnes in 2014. This is an 100 year increase of 10,997%.

Tropical Forest Loss

Tropical forests have declined in size since 1700 with total loss at 27.66% by 2011.

Forest Area

Forest area declined by more than 3 percent from 31.8 million kilometers2 in 1990 to 30.8 million kilometers2 in 2015.
Overview: Global Change
Changes to the environment, economy and human society that occur at planetary-scale.
Related Concepts

Change Management

This is the complete list of articles we have written about change management.
Agents Of Change
Anticipating Objections
Bias For Action
Big Bang Adoption
Business Change
Business Stakeholders
Business Transformation
Change Agent
Change Analysis
Change Characteristics
Change Drivers
Change Fatigue
Change Impact
Change Management
Change Plan
Change Planning
Change Principles
Change Process
Change Readiness
Change Resistance
Change Risk
Change Strategy
Choice Architecture
Communication Mgmt
Contingency Planning
Emergent Change
Goal Setting
Impact Analysis
Initial Excitement
Lessons Learned
Message Framing
Nudge Theory
Organizing Principle
Resistance To Change
Revenue Impact
Scope Creep
Status Quo
Turnaround Management
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An overview of sustainability with examples.


An overview of biochar.

Economic Security

The definition of economic security with examples.

Sustainable Materials

A list of the common characteristics of sustainable materials.

Downward Spiral

The definition of downward spiral with examples.

Core Values

A list of common core values with examples.

Natural Resources

The definition of natural resources with examples.

Green Industry

The definition of green industry with examples.

Environmental Justice

The definition of environmental justice with examples.


The common types of change.

Change Agent

A definition of change agent with examples.

Change Drivers

The definition of change driver with examples.

Status Quo

The definition of status quo with examples.

Resistance To Change

The definition of resistance to change with examples.

Continuous Change

The definition of continuous change with examples.

Culture Change

An overview of culture change with examples.

Organizational Change Communication

An overview of organizational change communication with examples.

Organizational Change

The four types of organizational change with examples of each.
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United Nations, DESA. World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision.
United Nations Population Division, DESA. World Urbanization Prospects: 2018 Revision.
IGBP synthesis: Global Change and the Earth System, Steffen et al 2004.
Nordhaus.The economics of new goods. University of Chicago Press, 1997.
A. Grubler, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA); Grubler et al. 2012.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World fertilizer trends and outlook to 2018.
World Tourism Organization, 2016 Annual Report.
FAOSTAT. 2017. Database of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
MacFarling Meure, C., Etheridge, D., Trudinger, C., Steele, P., Langenfelds, R., van Ommen, T., Smith, A. and Elkins, J. (2006). The Law Dome CO2, CH4 and N2O Ice Core Records Extended to 2000 years BP. Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 33, No. 14.
EPA, Climate Change Indicators: Atmospheric Concentrations of Greenhouse Gases, 2018.
Etheridge D. M., Steele L. P., Francey R. J. and Langenfelds R. L. 1998, Atmospheric methane between 1000 A.D. and present: evidence of anthropogenic emissions and climatic variability, Journal of Geophysical Research, 103.
James Orr, LSCE/IPSL, France; Bopp et al. 2013 and IPCC Fifth assessment report, Working Group 1, Chapter 6 (Ciais et al. 2013).
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department online, World capture production.
World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, Forest area, 2018.