The 4 Plausible Futures Of The World: Extinction Express

Arup’s recently published white paper, 2050 Scenarios: four plausible futures, discussed how certain choices of humanity at present can lead to one of the four scenarios they have identified.

Source: Arup

So far, we have seen what the world will look like in two scenarios: Post Anthropocene and Greentocracy.

In summary, an Anthropocene scenario is a world where the health of the planet and the state of society both improved. Meanwhile, in a Greentocracy, only the health of the planet improves but our societies decline.

Now, the third outcome which Arup named Excitinction Express is characterized by two conditions:

  1. Societal conditions have declined.
  2. Planetary health has declined.

Among the four outcomes, this is the worst. If the Post Anthropocene approaches the behaviour of a utopia, the Extinction Express scenario is close to that of a dystopia.

Just how bad is this scenario? What would happen exactly? Let’s see for ourselves.

State of crisis

Source: Arup

The scenario depicted by Extinction Express is a world where the life of humanity is drowned in uncertainty, no one is really sure how long it will take before they entirely collapse.

The climate emergency has prevailed over humans. This led to the destabilisation of the world’s natural systems. There is a shortage of food, water, and other resources.

The Amazon rainforest has almost reached full depletion due to exploitation. First, much of the land space is sold off to retailers in order to aid in their shipping needs. Other countries, mostly powerful ones, have increased their presence in the area, which not only drained the forest of materials but also led to resource conflicts. 

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Basic needs like water and air will be fully commodified. Access to clean water will be heavily regulated. Those who do not have privilege or access will resort to contaminated water sources in order to survive. Air domes will be erected in large cities. Those outside these domes will suffer from respiratory diseases like asthma and lung cancer.

With much of the nutrition of the land taken away, geoengineering and GMO crops will be the primary means to feed the population.


In an Extinction express scenario, nationalist agenda will prevail, with bilateral agreements only being looked into for the sake of exchanging resources. The citizens will be in an extreme state of discontent, with guerilla communities and protests prevalent.

Because of the skew towards nationalist views, isolationism is also on the rise. People start fearing those who they deem “foreign” or different. Immigration caps and asylum bans are also likely to be implemented. There will also be social scoring systems that resemble that of a caste system.

The world described by the Extinction Express is clearly the one that we should be avoiding. If there is any take away from this hypothetical condition, however, is that there is a real need for increased unities if we are to move away from this possibility.

There is one last scenario that we still need to discuss, which is also the outcome our current trajectory is approaching. For now, if you want to read more about the Extinction Express, you may read further on Arup’s paper here.

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