Posts Tagged ‘representative concentration pathways’

RCPs, SSPs, SPAs, …. what????

At the latest with the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a number of new acronyms started spilling out of the climate change research community to policy makers and the broader interested public. Centrally among them are RCPs, SSPs and SPAs, meaning Representative Concentration Pathways, Shared Socio-economic Pathways and Shared climate Policy Assumptions, respectively.

But what is this all about? And where do I have to look if I need more detailed information?

A nice and user-friendly introduction to the scenario framework is given at the IIASA website.

A first more detailed reference certainly is the article on A new scenario framework for Climate Change Research which forms part of a special issue A Framework for the Development of New Socio-economic Scenarios for Climate Change Research of the journal Climatic Change. The paper describes the basic concept how scenarios  that take into account the two dimensions of future climate change and socio-economic development can be formulated by combining alternative levels of radiative forcing of the climate system, described by RCPs, with alternative trajectories of future global development, described by the SSPs.

It also lines out that givens levels of radiative forcing may be attained through different climate policy designs and that different pathways of socio-economic development may require different sets of policies. This is the point where the SPAs come in, which complete the three-dimensional scenario framework.

For descriptions of the Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs), another paper in the same special issue is worth reading. Details on the narratives that underlie each of the SSPs can be found in a workshop report on The Nature and Use of New Socioeconomic Pathways for Climate Change Research. The core data sets with pathways of economic growth and population growth for each SSP are accessible through the SSP Database.

The Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs)  are dealt with extensively in another special issue on The Representative Concentration Pathways in Climatic Change. The articles in this collection give an overview on the RCPs and details on each of the RCPs that are used for the scenario framework.

The concept of Shared Policy Assumptions (SPAs)  is introduced  in a paper, which provides details on the concept and how it links into the general scenario framework.

As a nice feature, most of the information is open access.