Long-term energy scenarios are an important input to policy-relevant assessment reports on climate change such as those produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the United Nations Environment Programme to just name a few examples. They are also used by government agencies to support their decision making in the context of climate change mitigation and other energy-related challenges. In response to this demand, two broader categories of model development are currently pursued by the scientific community: (1) the degree of integration is increasing, in other words, the system boundaries of models are being extended, in particular to address the interlinkages between the energy, land, food, water, and climate more comprehensively and (2) the heterogeneity of the representation of various entities (e.g., spatial, sectoral, socio-economic) is increasing to adequately address distributional effects (e.g., countries within regions, urban vs rural areas, different types of households). Moreover, the energy-climate scenarios that are being developed are designed to be more ‘realistic’ by going beyond very stylized designs and integrate features that are observed in the real world. This includes delayed action on climate mitigation or fragmented approaches to mitigation that not only exclude major emitters from climate action, but also the exclusion of specific technologies from the portfolio of mitigation options in response to technical challenges or public acceptance issues. Finally, an attempt is made to summarize robust insights that have emerged from individual studies and particularly from modeling comparison exercises. WIREs Energy Environ 2014, 3:363–383. doi: 10.1002/wene.98
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