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The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment

Abstract

Advances in the science and observation of climate change are providing a clearer understanding of the inherent variability of Earth’s climate system and its likely response to human and natural influences. The implications of climate change for the environment and society will depend not only on the response of the Earth system to changes in radiative forcings, but also on how humankind responds through changes in technology, economies, lifestyle and policy. Extensive uncertainties exist in future forcings of and responses to climate change, necessitating the use of scenarios of the future to explore the potential consequences of different response options. To date, such scenarios have not adequately examined crucial possibilities, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, and have relied on research processes that slowed the exchange of information among physical, biological and social scientists. Here we describe a new process for creating plausible scenarios to investigate some of the most challenging and important questions about climate change confronting the global community.

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Figure 1: Timeline highlighting some notable developments in the creation and use of emissions and climate scenarios.
Figure 2: Major natural and anthropogenic processes and influences on the climate system addressed in scenarios.
Figure 3: Sequential approach.
Figure 4: The parallel process.
Figure 5: Representative concentration pathways.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the following individuals for their contributions: L. Arris, M. Babiker, F. Birol, P. Bosch, O. Boucher, S. Brinkman, E. Calvo, I. Elgizouli, L. Erda, J. Feddema, A. Garg, A. Gaye, M. Ibarraran, E. La Rovere, B. Metz, R. Jones, J. Kelleher, J. F. Lamarque, B. Matthews, L. Meyer, B. O’Neill, S. Nishioka, R. Pichs, H. Pitcher, P. Runci, D. Shindell, P. R. Shukla, A. Snidvongs, P. Thornton, J. P. van Ypersele, V. Vilariño and M. Zurek.

Author Contributions R.H.M. is coordinating lead author of the paper. J.A.E., K.A.H., M.R.M., S.K.R. and D.P.v.V. are principal co-authors of the paper. All others are co-authors. Authors are drawn from the integrated assessment modelling and climate modelling communities, and from the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability research communities; all contributed important inputs to the process.

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Correspondence to Richard H. Moss.

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This supplementary file contains an expanded version of the timeline ‘some notable developments and international applications of scenarios in climate research’ which is shown in figure 1 of the main paper and Supplementary References. (PDF 204 kb)

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Moss, R., Edmonds, J., Hibbard, K. et al. The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment. Nature 463, 747–756 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature08823

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