New Frontiers for Project Management: Earth Science, Monitoring the Planet & Climate Control


By David L. Pells

Addison, Texas, USA


Professional project management (PM) continues to grow rapidly in usage and demand worldwide, in most organizations and across all industries.  This is especially true in high technology organizations, but in many other industries as well.  The world is also rapidly changing, due to the global economy, climate change and other factors.  What do these changes mean to project-based organizations and PM professionals?  Many of these changes will offer new challenges and opportunities for individuals and organizations involved with project management.

I believe there will be some significant new industries, and major changes in existing industries, that will offer “new frontiers” for projects and PM around the world in the next 10-20 years.  Some of these new areas of PM application have been emerging slowly over the last decade, but are now expanding rapidly due to other forces and converging influences.  Other new frontiers are in traditional industries and sectors, but based on new global information, perspectives and awareness that are leading to new and massive investments in infrastructure.  And some frontiers are growing apparent based on changing demographics and more inter-connected, urban and global human populations and civil society.

In my March 2008 PM World Today editorial, I described Nanotechnology as a New Frontier for Project Management, describing the many fields of science and industry that Nanotechnology is already affecting.  In my May editorial, I discussed Future Energy sources and projects as another New Frontier for project management, a trend that is now accelerating as oil & gas prices continue to increase as supplies are stretched and demand continues to grow.  As populations and economies grow, the demand for new sources of energy will result in many new projects and an increasing demand for professional project management.

Another “new frontier” for projects and PM is also being affected by recent planetary changes and trends.  Over the last decade, climate change, global warming, severe weather and natural disasters have focused global attention on the need to better understand the Earth, mankind’s impact on the planet, and future options for improving both forecasting technologies as well as outcomes.  Many scientific projects and programs have been launched in the last few years to study climate change, changes in the polar ice caps, changes in the ocean and ocean currents, weather patters, the ozone, and other topics.  At the same time, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, fires and other several weather causing huge natural disasters have focused attention on climatology, meteorology, oceanography, seismology and other “earth sciences”.

This month, I want to suggest another new frontier for PM, a broad topic that might be grouped together as earth sciences, monitoring of the planet, and climate/weather management.  Climate control is the stuff of science fiction, or is it?  I think it is still many decades away.  But over the next few decades, mankind must invest in a better understanding of the planet, and better tools and methods for predicting and preparing for extreme weather.  Let us examine a few areas where this is already occurring, and some implications for the project management profession.

Earth Sciences – Learning more about the Earth

pmwl53-dec2016-pells-earthEarth is a complex, dynamic system that mankind does not yet fully understand. The Earth system is comprised of diverse components that interact in complex ways. We need to understand the Earth’s atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere as a single connected system. Our planet is changing on all spatial and temporal scales. [4]

According to Wikipedia, Earth science (also known as geoscience, the geosciences or the Earth Sciences), is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. There are four major disciplines in earth sciences, namely geography, geology, geophysics and geodesy… Earth science generally recognizes 4 spheres, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere. These correspond to rocks, water, air, and life. Some practitioners include the cryosphere (ice) as a distinct portion of the hydrosphere and the pedosphere (soil) as an active, intermixed sphere as part of Earth’s spheres. [1]

It is worth repeating here this additional information from the Wikipedia webpage on Earth Science, describing disciplines and sub-disciplines in this general topic:


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally published in the now discontinued PM World Today eJournal in 2008. It is republished here with the author’s permission.


About the Author

David L. Pells

Managing Editor, PMWJ
Managing Director, PMWL
Addison, Texas, USA



David Pells
is Managing Editor of the PM World Journal (www.pmworldjournal.net) and Managing Director of the PM World Library (www.pmworldlibrary.net). David is an internationally recognized leader in the field of professional project management with more than 35 years of experience on a variety of programs and projects, including engineering, construction, energy, defense, transit, technology and nuclear security, and project sizes ranging from thousands to billions of dollars. He has been an active professional leader in the United States since the 1980s, serving on the board of directors of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) twice.  He was founder and chair of the Global Project Management Forum (1995-2000), an annual meeting of leaders of PM associations from around the world.

David was awarded PMI’s Person of the Year award in 1998 and Fellow Award, PMI’s highest honor, in 1999. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK; Project Management Associates (PMA – India); and Russian Project Management Association.  Since 2010 he is an honorary member of the Project Management Association of Nepal.  From June 2006 until March 2012, he was the managing editor of PM World Today.  He occasionally provides high level advisory services for major programs, global organizations and the U.S. federal government.  David has a BA in Business Administration from the University of Washington and a Master’s degree in business from Idaho State University in the USA.  He has published widely, spoken at conferences and events worldwide, and can be contacted at [email protected].

To view other works by David Pells, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/david-l-pells/