Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Energy modellers should explore extremes more systematically in scenarios

Scenarios are the primary tool for examining how current decisions shape the future, but the future is affected as much by out-of-ordinary extremes as by generally expected trends. Energy modellers can study extremes both by incorporating them directly within models and by using complementary off-model analyses.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    Farmer, J. D., Hepburn, C., Mealy, P. & Teytelboym, A. A. Environ. Resour. Econ. 62, 329–357 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Ma, T., Grubler, A., Nakicenovic, N. & Arthur, W. B. Technologies As Agents Of Change: A Simulation Model Of The Evolving Complexity Of The Global Energy System IIASA Interim Report: IR-08-021 (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria, 2008).

  3. 3.

    Smith, M. D. J. Ecol. 99, 656–663 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Albeverio, S., Jentsch, V. & Kantz, H. Extreme Events in Nature and Society (Springer, 2006).

  5. 5.

    Sathaye, J. & Shukla, P. R. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resou. r. 38, 137–168 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Riahi, K. et al. Technol. Forecast. So. c. Change 90, 8–23 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Blanford, G. J., Merrick, J. H., Bistline, J. E. T. & Young, D. T. Energy J. 39, (2018).

  8. 8.

    IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C (eds Masson-Delmotte, V. et al.) (WMO, 2018).

  9. 9.

    O’Neill, B. C. et al. Clim. Change 122, 387–400 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Grubler, A. et al. Nat. Energy 3, 515–527 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Anable, J., Brand, C., Tran, M. & Eyre, N. Energy Policy 41, 125–138 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Mullally, S. L. & Maguire, E. A. Neuroscientist 20, 220–234 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Tversky, A. & Kahneman, D. Science 185, 1124–1131 (1974).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Gambhir, A. Joule 3, 1795–1798 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Assessment of Future Energy Demand: A Methodological Review Providing Guidance to Developers And Users of Energy Models And Scenarios (International Risk Governance Council, 2015).

  16. 16.

    Gambhir, A., Cronin, C., Rogelj, J. & Workman, M. Using Futures Analysis To Develop Resilient Climate Change Mitigation Strategies (Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, ClimateWorks, 2019).

  17. 17.

    Köhler, J., Turnheim, B. & Hodson, M. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change 151, 119314 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Turnheim, B. et al. Glob. Environ. Change 35, 239–253 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Hancock, T. & Bezold, C. Healthc. Forum J. 37, 23–29 (1994).

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Voros, J. Foresight 5, 10–21 (2003);

  21. 21.

    van Dorsser, C., Walker, W. E., Taneja, P. & Marchau, V. A. W. J. Futures 104, 75–84 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


D.L.M. acknowledges A. Grubler, K. Riahi, V. Krey and N. Nakicenovic (all of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) for years of inspiration and thought experimentation. A.G. acknowledges funding support from the ClimateWorks Foundation. C.W. was supported by European Research Council Starting Grant #678799.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to David L. McCollum.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

McCollum, D.L., Gambhir, A., Rogelj, J. et al. Energy modellers should explore extremes more systematically in scenarios. Nat Energy 5, 104–107 (2020).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing