Scenarios are essential for exploring climate change. These stories of future Earth help to reveal how we might prevent global tragedy – by IIASA
In this IIASA Options Winter 2021 feature article by Elina Brutschin, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Keywan Riahi and Joeri Rogelj explain why climate scenarios are needed. They are essential because the future is uncertain and complex. We cannot know what will happen to populations, international relations, societies, economies, ecosystems, and technologies. Much of the uncertainty comes from today’s choices, which can only be explored by posing “what-if” questions. So climate scientists have become storytellers, crafting consistent plotlines that span a range of futures and compare policy outcomes. Some of these scenarios have grisly ends; others are hopeful but risky; and some of the latest are telling a new kind of mitigation story, which turns out to benefit both climate and economy, and might be more feasible too.