The Club of Rome is a global think tank that deals with a variety of international political issues. Founded in 1968 at Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, Italy, the Club of Rome describes itself as “a group of world citizens, sharing a common concern for the future of humanity.” It consists of current and former heads of state, UN bureaucrats, high-level politicians and government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists and business leaders from around the globe. It raised considerable public attention in 1972 with its report The Limits to Growth. The club states that its mission is “to act as a global catalyst for change through the identification and analysis of the crucial problems facing humanity and the communication of such problems to the most important public and private decision makers as well as to the general public.” Since 1 July 2008, the organization has its headquarters in Winterthur, Switzerland.
The Club of Rome was founded in April 1968 by Aurelio Peccei, an Italian industrialist, and Alexander King, a Scottish scientist. It was formed when a small international group of people from the fields of academia, civil society, diplomacy, and industry, met at a villa in Rome, hence the name.
The Club of Rome raised considerable public attention with its report Limits to Growth, which has sold 30 million copies in more than 30 translations, making it the best-selling environmental book in world history. Published in 1972 and presented for the first time at the International Students’ Committee (ISC) annual Management Symposium in St. Gallen, Switzerland, it predicted that economic growth could not continue indefinitely because of the limited availability of natural resources, particularly oil. The 1973 oil crisis increased public concern about this problem. However, even before Limits to Growth was published, Eduard Pestel and Mihajlo Mesarovic of Case Western Reserve University had begun work on a far more elaborate model (it distinguished ten world regions and involved 200,000 equations compared with 1000 in the Meadows model). The research had the full support of the Club and the final publication, Mankind at the Turning Point was accepted as the official Second Report to the Club of Rome in 1974. In addition to providing a more refined regional breakdown, Pestel and Mesarovic had succeeded in integrating social as well as technical data. The Second Report revised the scenarios of the original Limits to Growth and gave a more optimistic prognosis for the future of the environment, noting that many of the factors were within human control and therefore that environmental and economic catastrophe were preventable or avoidable, hence the title.
In 1991, the Club published The First Global Revolution. It analyses the problems of humanity, calling these collectively or in essence the ‘problematique’. It notes (laments) that, historically, social or political unity has commonly been motivated by enemies in common: “The need for enemies seems to be a common historical factor. Some states have striven to overcome domestic failure and internal contradictions by blaming external enemies. The ploy of finding a scapegoat is as old as mankind itself – when things become too difficult at home, divert attention to adventure abroad. Bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one, or else one invented for the purpose. With the disappearance of the traditional enemy, the temptation is to use religious or ethnic minorities as scapegoats, especially those whose differences from the majority are disturbing.” “Every state has been so used to classifying its neighbours as friend or foe, that the sudden absence of traditional adversaries has left governments and public opinion with a great void to fill. New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined, and new weapons devised.” “In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.”
A study by Graham Turner of the research organisation CSIRO in Australia in 2008 found that “30 years of historical data compare favorably with key features of a business-as-usual scenario called the ‘‘standard run’’ scenario, which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st century.”
According to its website, the Club of Rome is composed of “scientists, economists, businessmen, international high civil servants, heads of state and former heads of state from all five continents who are convinced that the future of humankind is not determined once and for all and that each human being can contribute to the improvement of our societies.”
The Club of Rome is a membership organization and has different membership categories. Full members, of which the Club of Rome currently has 106, are engaged in the research activities and projects of the Club of Rome and contribute to decision-making processes during the Club of Rome’s annual General Assembly. Of the full members, 12 are elected to form the Executive Committee of the Club, which sets the general direction and the agenda of the Club. Of the Executive Committee, two are elected as co-presidents, currently Anders Wijkman (Sweden) and Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker (Germany), and two as vice-presidents, currently Dr. Roberto Peccei (Italy and USA) and Susana Catalina Chacón Domínguez (Mexico). The secretary-general is equally elected amongst the members of the Executive Committee, and is currently Graeme Maxton of Scotland. He is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the club at its headquarters in Winterthur, Switzerland. Other full members include: Ugo Bardi, Juan Luis Cebrian, Obiora Ike, Mugur Isărescu, Esko Kalimo, Ashok Khosla, Claude Martin, Roberto Peccei,Jorgen Randers, Joseph Stiglitz, Keith Suter. Next to full members, the Club of Rome also has associate members, which equally participate in research and projects but have no vote in the annual General Assembly, as well as honorary members. Notable honorary members include Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Orio Giarini, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mikhail Gorbachev, King of Spain Juan Carlos I, Horst Köhler, and Mammohan Sing.
The annual General Assembly of 2016 is taking place in Berlin, Germany, between 10th and 11 November.
The Club of Rome currently has national associations in 35 countries and territories, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Poland, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, The Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, Venezuela. The mission of the national associations is to spread the ideas and vision of the Club of Rome in their respective countries, to offer solutions and to lobby for a more sustainable and just economy in the respective national context, and to support the international secretariat of the Club of Rome with the organization of events, such as the annual general assembly.
In 2009, the organization established a three-year program on “A New Path for World Development”. In a flyer describing the project, it declared “The global issues which were the focus of the 1972 Report, “Limits to Growth” are even more severe and urgent today.” The project has five issue areas: Environment and Resources, Globalization, International Development, Social Transformation, Peace and Security.
The club’s worldview is based on three things. Firstly, it has a global perspective in viewing different situations, with the awareness that there is an increasing interdependency of countries. Secondly, it seeks holistic solutions understanding the different interactions in contemporary problems. Finally, the club has a long-term perspective for solutions.
Notable members (alphabetically arranged by surname)
- Hans-Peter Dürr (1929–2014)
- Mahdi Elmandjra (1933-2014)
- Călin Georgescu (born in 1962) – Chairman of the Board, European Support Centre for the Club of Rome, now European Research Center, Vienna and Konstanz (2010-)
- Mikhail Gorbachev (born in 1931)
- Václav Havel (1936–2011)
- Bohdan Hawrylyshyn (born in 1926) – Chairman International Management Institute – Kyiv (IMI-Kyiv), Honorary Council of Ukraine
- Daisaku Ikeda
- Mugur Isărescu (born in 1949), the Governor of the National Bank of Romania in Bucharest
- Erich Jantsch, author of Technological Forecasting (1929–1980)
- Derrick de Kerckhove (born 1944)
- Alexander King (1909–2007) founding member
- Max Kohnstamm (Netherlands), former Secretary General of the ECSC (1914–2010)
- David Korten
- Graeme Maxton
- Dennis Meadows
- Donella Meadows (1941–2001)
- Mihajlo D. Mesarovic
- George P. Mitchell (1919–2013)
- Mohan Munasinghe
- Aurelio Peccei (1908–1984) founding member 
- John R. Platt (1918–1992)
- Joseph Stiglitz
- Ivo Šlaus
- Prince Hassan bin Talal
- Hugo Thiemann (1917–2012)
- Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1919–2000), former prime minister of Canada;
- Robert Uffen (1923–2009)
- Victor Urquidi
- Frederic Vester (1925–2003)
- Milan Zelený