Learning from global emissions scenarios

O'Neill BC & Nakicenovic N (2009). Learning from global emissions scenarios. IIASA Research Report (Reprint). IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: RP-09-002. Reprinted from Environmental Research Letters, 3(2008):045014 (9pp).

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Abstract

Scenarios of global greenhouse gas emissions have played a key role in climate change analysis for over twenty years. Currently, several research communities are organizing to undertake a new round of scenario development in the lead-up to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). To help inform this process, we assess a number of past efforts to develop and learn from sets of global greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. We conclude that while emissions scenario exercises have likely had substantial benefits for participating modeling teams and produced insights from individual models, learning from the exercises taken as a whole has been more limited. Model comparison exercises have typically focused on the production of large numbers of scenarios while investing little in assessing the results or the production process, perhaps on the assumption that later assessment efforts could play this role. However, much of this assessment potential remains untapped. Efforts such as scenario-related chapters of IPCC reports have been most informative when they have gone to extra lengths to carry out more specific comparison exercises, but in general these assessments do not have the remit or resources to carry out the kind of detailed analysis of scenario results necessary for drawing the most useful conclusions. We recommend that scenario comparison exercises build-in time and resources for assessing scenario results in more detail at the time when they are produced, that these exercises focus on more specific questions to improve the prospects for learning, and that additional scenario assessments are carried out separately from production exercises. We also discuss the obstacles to better assessment that might exist, and how they might be overcome. Finally, we recommend that future work include much greater emphasis on understanding how scenarios are actually used, as a guide to improving scenario production.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Research Report (Reprint))
Uncontrolled Keywords: scenarios, climate change, integrated assessment, learning
Research Programs: Energy (ENE)
Transitions to New Technologies (TNT)
Population and Climate Change (PCC)
Bibliographic Reference: Reprinted from Environmental Research Letters; 3(2008):045014 (9pp)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:43
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2016 07:08
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/9148

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