Representing and using scenarios for responding to climate change



Scenarios have become a standard tool in climate studies and provide the basis for our understanding of climate-related challenges, the mechanisms for adaptation, and options for mitigation. They can be thought of in two ways: either as products that describe outcomes resulting from specific driving forces, or as processes for establishing long-term planning targets. Common scenario types include emissions scenarios, climate change scenarios, and socioeconomic scenarios, all of which are used in strategic planning to compare the potential consequences of different future contexts. Scenario-based studies also shape the information that is used to motivate the changes in behavior that are needed to achieve mitigation goals. This review presents some of the issues that arise when using scenarios for responding to climate change. Uncertainties associated with scenario approaches are an apparent barrier to the development of policies regarding climate change, especially at local and national scales. Scenarios are also ineffective at addressing noncognitive influences on climate change perception and therefore do not stimulate behavioral change. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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