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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.This review informed the crafting of four narrative storylines describing the main scenario characteristics.
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.
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.
Such emissions scenarios have become the standard for investigating the robustness of a wide variety of mitigation strategies.
Concurrently, the climate impacts community has used the outputs from General Circulation Models (GCMs) as the raw material for climate scenarios, from which studies of potential impacts have been derived.
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.
In each case, the flow of information has been one-way, from one set of models to another, with little opportunity for feedback among the three primary research communities – mitigation researchers, climate modelers, and impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability researchers.
Investigations of the assumptions of each community in generating or using scenarios have only rarely been examined; and the opportunities for investigating feedbacks among these three domains even less so.