IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

2.4.6 Scenarios

Advances in scenario development since the TAR address issues of consistency and comparability between global drivers of change, and regional scenarios required for CCIAV assessment (for reviews, see Berkhout et al., 2002; Carter et al., 2004; Parson et al., 2006). Numerous methods of downscaling from global to sub-global scale are emerging, some relying on the narrative storylines underpinning the global scenarios.

At the time of the TAR, most CCIAV studies utilised climate scenarios (many based on the IS92 emissions scenarios), but very few applied contemporaneous scenarios of socio-economic, land-use, or other environmental changes. Those that did used a range of sources to develop them. The IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES: see Nakićenović et al., 2000) presented the opportunity to construct a range of mutually consistent climate and non-climatic scenarios. Originally developed to provide scenarios of future GHG emissions, the SRES scenarios are also accompanied by storylines of social, economic, and technological development that can be used in CCIAV studies (Box 2.2).

Box 2.2. The SRES global storylines and scenarios

SRES presented four narrative storylines, labelled A1, A2, B1, and B2, describing the relationships between the forces driving GHG and aerosol emissions and their evolution during the 21st century for large world regions and globally (Figure 2.5). Each storyline represents different demographic, social, economic, technological, and environmental developments that diverge in increasingly irreversible ways and result in different levels of GHG emissions. The storylines assume that no specific climate policies are implemented, and thus form a baseline against which narratives with specific mitigation and adaptation measures can be compared.

Figure 2.5

Figure 2.5. Summary characteristics of the four SRES storylines (based on Naki´cenovi´c et al., 2000).

The SRES storylines formed the basis for the development of quantitative scenarios using various numerical models that were presented in the TAR. Emissions scenarios were converted to projections of atmospheric GHG and aerosol concentrations, radiative forcing of the climate, effects on regional climate, and climatic effects on global sea level (IPCC, 2001a). However, little regional detail of these projections and no CCIAV studies that made use of them were available for the TAR. Many CCIAV studies have applied SRES-based scenarios since then, and some of these are described in Boxes 2.3 to 2.7 to illustrate different scenario types.

There has been an increasing uptake of the SRES scenarios since the TAR, and a substantial number of the impact studies assessed in this volume that employed future characterisations made use of them.[7] For this reason, these scenarios are highlighted in a series of boxed examples throughout Section 2.4. For some other studies, especially empirical analyses of adaptation and vulnerability, the scenarios were of limited relevance and were not adopted.

While the SRES scenarios were specifically developed to address climate change, several other major global scenario-building exercises have been designed to explore uncertainties and risks related to global environmental change. Recent examples include: the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment scenarios to 2100 (MA: see Alcamo et al., 2005), Global Scenarios Group scenarios to 2050 (GSG: see Raskin et al., 2002), and Global Environment Outlook scenarios to 2032 (GEO-3: see UNEP 2002). These exercises were reviewed and compared by Raskin et al. (2005) and Westhoek et al. (2006a), who observed that many applied similar assumptions to those used in the SRES scenarios, in some cases employing the same models to quantify the main drivers and indicators. All the exercises adopted the storyline and simulation (SAS) approach (introduced in Section 2.4.5). Furthermore, all contain important features that can be useful for CCIAV studies; with some exercises (e.g., MA and GEO-3) going one step further than the original SRES scenarios by not only describing possible emissions under differing socio-economic pathways but also including imaginable outcomes for climate variables and their impact on ecological and social systems. This helps to illustrate risks and possible response strategies to deal with possible impacts.

Five classes of scenarios relevant to CCIAV analysis were distinguished in the TAR: climate, socio-economic, land-use and land-cover, other environmental (mainly atmospheric composition), and sea-level scenarios (Carter et al., 2001). The following sections describe recent progress in each of these classes and in four additional categories: technology scenarios, adaptation scenarios, mitigation scenarios, and scenario integration.

  1. ^  Of 17 chapters surveyed, SRES-based scenarios were used by the majority of impact studies in 5 chapters, and by a large minority in 11 chapters. The most common usage is for climate scenarios, while examples of studies employing SRES-based socio-economic, environmental, or land-use scenarios comprise a small but growing number. The remaining impact studies used either earlier IPCC scenarios (e.g., IS92) or characterisations derived from other sources.