Back to Sustainability Blog

How climate change affects people and populations: A research preview

Climate hazards such as heat, flooding and water stress could impact 1 in 2 people globally by 2030. Here is a preview of our upcoming research on how populations could be affected.
Harry Bowcott

Leads McKinsey Sustainability in the United Kingdom, and our work on climate resilience.

Mekala Krishnan

Leads the McKinsey Global Institute’s research on gender economics, inclusive growth, and economic development

An experienced crisis practitioner working across sectors and regions; helps leaders of large organizations resolve and prevent crises—including operational incidents, organizational turbulence, and market disruption

Oliver Walker

Manages the firm's natural-resources group and works in the Sustainability Practice across the finance, growth, development, and earth observation sectors as a director at Vivid Economics, a McKinsey company

Building on the McKinsey Global Institute’s Climate Risk and Response research, which analysed physical climate risks and their socioeconomic impacts, McKinsey Sustainability recently undertook a global, human-centric analysis of population exposure to multiple climate hazards. In the below infographic, we are sharing a preview of some of the key insights in advance of the important discussions taking place during Climate Week NYC this week. Our research shows that climate hazards are a near-term humanitarian challenge. The threat of climate change is not only increasing at an accelerated pace, but also does not develop linearly. Instead, it jumps forward in bigger steps, affecting people, communities and economies unevenly around the world. The impact of these hazards is borne disproportionately by people in the most vulnerable third of the world’s population, who are twice as likely to be exposed to climate hazards. This analysis emphasizes the imperative to build resilience by highlighting the scale of the global challenge we face. For more, read our full analysis on the impact of climate change on communities and populations, Protecting people from a changing climate: The case for resilience which provides important insight on a roadmap for building climate resilience.

How climate change affects people and populations: A research preview
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at:

Acknowledgments: McKinsey’s Climate Analytics team contributed to this research, including: Lori Fomenko, Zach Bruick, Riley Brady, Kelly Kochanski, Romain Paniagua, Fabian Franzini, Alexis Trittipo. The authors would also like to thank Shruti Badri for her work on this article.

Stay current on your favorite topics