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This volume reports on a novel and central component of this effort – the development of shared socio-economic development pathways (SSPs).Emissions scenarios, a precursor of today’s SSPs, have described future emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other short-lived and long-lived forcings of the physical climate system.
) has been used widely for well over a decade, as the standard for impacts, mitigation and adaptation studies.
The SRES process began with a literature review focused on understanding the range of driving forces affecting emissions of GHGs and other radiatively active substances.
Some six years ago it became evident, given new knowledge and rapid change in the world’s economy and technology, that a new set of scenarios would be required to meet the emerging needs of different scientific communities and the resulting IPCC assessments.
In addition, a broad consensus arose across climate change communities that a new approach for developing these scenarios was needed to enhance interactions among the three primary research communities (CM, IAV and IAM) and to adequately address the complexity of the interactions of human decisions about mitigation and adaptation, and about the climate system and climate impacts.
From start to finish, this process could take close to a decade.
In contrast, this new process works in parallel, with the IAM and GCM modelers both working simultaneously with the new RCPs.These scenarios were then posted on a public website and announced in scientific journals to solicit feedback.Following this “open process,” and IPCC expert and government review, forty quantitative scenarios were then published and posted online.The Aspen Workshop in 2006 (Meehl and Hibbard ) formulated the basic framework that includes the SSPs that are the focus of this special issue.This new process includes at least two novel features.The RCPs are trajectories of GHG concentrations with radiative forcing endpoints that are widely enough separated for climate modelers to construct a set of experiments to investigate carbon-climate feedbacks and other emerging research questions.They have been developed by four IAMs and as such imply consistent socio-economic and mitigation assumptions for each of the four RCPs, but these were not reported and will be replaced by new driving forces specified by SSP and shared policy assumptions (SPAs) through the mentioned parallel process.Such climate scenarios may be taken directly from GCMs, or may be downscaled through a wide variety of methods.These scenarios are essential not only for understanding potential impacts, but also as input for possible decision-making about adaptation to climate change’s effects.All RCPs implicitly include mitigation actions in their formulation that are sufficient to stabilize radiative forcing at the end of the 21st century at different levels, including “overshoot” pathways and net “negative” emissions.These accomplishments suggest initial success towards the goals of more and faster interactions among the various climate research communities.