Published September 2019
Bye-Bye, billions to trillions
By John W. McArthur

John W. McArthur is a Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development Program. He is also a Senior Advisor on sustainable development to the UN Foundation and a Board Governor of the International Development Research Centre. He formerly managed the UN Millennium Project, the advisory body to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and served as Chief Executive Officer of Millennium Promise, the international non-governmental organisation. Previously he co-authored the Global Competitiveness Report; co-chaired the International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice; co-founded the global network of Master’s in Development Practice degree programs; and chaired Global Agenda Councils for the World Economic Forum.

If trying to grow a plant in the Sahara, it is no help to track the world’s total rainfall. Likewise, investing to protect a Caribbean farm from a hurricane has little bearing on a Pacific island’s resilience to typhoons. For most people, the intuition is clear. International precipitation aggregates are simply not meaningful for specific places and communities grappling with too little rain, too much rain or the wrong type of rain.