New interactive scenario explorer for 1.5 degrees C pathways

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IIASA and the Integrated Assessment Modeling Consortium (IAMC) have made the scenarios underlying last week's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C Special Report publicly available in an interactive online resource. The resource provides scenarios and a suite of visualization and analysis tools, making the assessment more transparent to researchers, policymakers, and the public.

Last week's IPCC special report on the impacts of 1.5ºC of global warming drew from a wealth of research including numerous studies by IIASA scientists. The report also relied on a set of scenarios developed by the worldwide research community. IIASA and the IAMC have now published these scenarios, and tools to explore them, in a publicly accessible repository. The 1.5 Degree Scenario Explorer hosted by IIASA was published today and is featured in an accompanying commentary in Nature Climate Change.

"This compilation of scenarios is the first systematic and curated community effort to compile model-based pathways in the context of warming of 1.5°C, the Paris Agreement, and sustainable development," says IIASA researcher Daniel Huppmann, who led the development of the resource.

The new scenario explorer—which was developed by IIASA on behalf of the Integrated Assessment Modeling Consortium (IAMC) and the IPCC—includes 414 scenarios for developed by more than a dozen research teams from around the world. These scenarios, which focus on limiting temperature rise to below 1.5°C or 2°C above pre-industrial levels, include information related to the energy system, greenhouse gas emissions, land-use change, and other factors connected with climate change and sustainable development.

It also includes visualization tools for exploring the data, so that policymakers and researchers in related fields such as climate finance can explore different options for climate action and their potential consequences. And it is freely accessible to the general public, so that anyone who is interested can explore the scenarios to better understand mitigation options and their synergies and trade-offs with sustainable development and other societal priorities.

"The aim of the new scenario explorer is to help increase the transparency of IPCC assessments, and facilitate better understanding of synergies and trade-offs of climate change mitigation options with ," says Huppmann. "This is a major step towards improving transparency and reproducibility of information presented in IPCC reports, in particular with the ability to create tables and figures from the underlying scenario data being made available for the Special Report on 1.5 degrees," adds IIASA researcher Volker Krey, who coordinated the collection of scenarios in the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC.

IIASA has hosted scenario databases for many years on behalf of the international research community, starting with the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs, released in 2008), and including the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs, 2017) and the scenario database for the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC (AR5, 2014).

Inside the black box

Scenarios are tools used by researchers to project how the future might look, and what actions—particularly in the policy realm—can be taken to influence future developments in areas such as climate change.

"There are an infinite number of possible pathways that the future could take," explains IIASA Energy Program Director Keywan Riahi, who was also a lead author of the IPCC 1.5C Special Report. "The new explorer provides systematic access to a limited set of representative pathways, which researchers can now draw upon in order to make consistent assumptions about the future and climate change mitigation, adaptation, and impacts."

The current set of scenarios were collected through an open call to the global modeling community. IIASA researchers, in collaboration with Elmar Kriegler at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research and other authors of the IPCC report, ran all the submitted scenarios through a number of validation steps for consistency, completeness and near-term plausibility, and assessed their respective warming impact until the end of the century using two reduced-complexity carbon cycle and climate models.

Using the scenario explorer

The scenario explorer sets a new standard for transparency and openness in assessment of quantitative scenarios by the IPCC. But the researchers caution that people using the resource should be aware of the limitations of such scenario ensembles, and they set these out explicitly in the Nature Climate Change article.

In particular, they point out that a number of scenarios show that limiting global warming to 1.5°C can be achieved without negative emissions technologies such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). "This information by itself does not imply that reaching ambitious climate goals is less likely without BECCS—instead, it shows that pathways with and without BECCS exist for implementing the Paris Agreement, highlighting that different societal preferences and strategies can result in vastly different outcomes," they write.

The researchers also caution against focusing on the medians, but considering the whole range of possibilities, against cherry picking individual scenarios, and against overinterpreting scenarios that were developed with one specific research purpose.

Finally they point out that the published scenarios cannot represent all possible solutions for limiting climate change to below 1.5°C or 2°C, nor all possible outcomes.

"In solving the challenge of , we need creativity and innovation. While these scenarios represent a large component of what has been published in the literature, the absence of a particular scenario does not necessarily mean that that scenario is not feasible or possible," says IIASA researcher Joeri Rogelj, who was a coordinating lead author of the IPCC special report.

Explore further

Thinking outside the box on climate mitigation

More information: Daniel Huppmann et al, A new scenario resource for integrated 1.5 °C research, Nature Climate Change (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0317-4
Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Citation: New interactive scenario explorer for 1.5 degrees C pathways (2018, October 16) retrieved 22 July 2019 from
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Oct 16, 2018
In his Lesley Stahl interview this week, Trump announced that he does think 'something' (the climate) is changing, and it will change back. He is not sure how much of it is human caused, and is not interested in 'wrecking the economy' in response.
It seems to me that we are making progress in terms of recognition of the crisis - (what Trump says now beats the "It is made up by the Chinese" line), and moving forward in terms of proposing solutions. Still staggering that we can't see the economic advantage of developing new energy systems. It is highlighted by the Saudi Arabia situation - in which analysts are arguing that we cannot stand up to the Saudis on a critical human rights stand - 'cuz they can fuck up the world economy by playing with oil prices!' So develop home grown alternatives - and remove that lever. Seems individual self interest (economic - ie Exxon Mobil/Saudi Aramco/Boeing etc.) - so often trumps the greater good....

Oct 17, 2018
"Seems individual self interest (economic - ie Exxon Mobil/Saudi Aramco/Boeing etc.) - so often trumps the greater good...."

Indeed. We are getting Trumped up the ass.

Oct 17, 2018
I wish we all could stop fighting over causes and ideas for "fixing" the climate. The climate is and has always been changing. Sea levels (as one example) have been rising for the last 9,000 years. The rising has picked up speed by .5 to 1.0 mm/year, but rising seas should not be such big and calamitous news. IMO, the right thing to do is to put aside our political agendas and prepare for the coming changes. Most of the proposed ideas for holding the temperature at some special point (1980? 1950? This Friday? You pick.) seem to be too little too late. I propose a new movement: prepare for the future. Be thankful that we have the means to see what is coming, and make positive, productive use of that information. Let's stop wringing our hands and start preparing. I know the arguing and name-calling is fun, but we have work to do.

Oct 17, 2018
The problem with just adapting to the changes is that 1) a lot of people will die from them, and 2) it's much, much, much more expensive to adapt than to mitigate. Given that we know extremely well what's causing the changes (hint: it's us), and have a very good idea of where we're headed, and have most of the technology to prevent that, and mitigating is good for our health and our economy, and were going to eventually have to implement the new technologies anyway, why would anyone choose not to mitigate?

Oct 17, 2018
I do agree with one of your points, however. We do have a lot of work to do. So those of you who are too lazy or too scared to do the what needs to be done need to get out of the way of those of us who aren't.

Oct 17, 2018
The climate is and has always been changing
We know that. Why do you feel the need to say that? No scientist is claiming that the climate has ever reached a state of stability (not changing). Don't you think it is a pointless thing to say? Unless your point is to say that green house gas emissions are not affecting the climate. In that case - you are contradicting the body of science - and need to supply evidence.
Let's stop wringing our hands and start preparing
Many are doing just that. The problem is the inertia of the fossil fuel system we have developed. They don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs - so they default to denial. Now Trump admits 'something' is changing - but he is not interested in 'wrecking' our economy in response. It threatens their position of privilege - and they are too lazy to find the win win.

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