Spread in climate policy scenarios unravelled

Analysis of climate policy scenarios has become an important tool for identifying mitigation strategies, as demonstrated in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group III report. The key outcomes of these scenarios differ substantially not only because of model and climate target differences but also because of different assumptions on behavioural, technological and socio-economic developments. A comprehensive attribution of the spread in climate policy scenarios helps policymakers, stakeholders and scientists to cope with large uncertainties in this field. Here we attribute this spread to the underlying drivers using Sobol decomposition, yielding the importance of each driver for scenario outcomes.

As expected, the climate target explains most of the spread in greenhouse gas emissions, total and sectoral fossil fuel use, total renewable energy and total carbon capture and storage in electricity generation. On the other hand, model differences drive variation of most other scenario outcomes. For example, in individual renewable and carbon capture and storage technologies, and energy in demand sectors. This reflects intrinsic uncertainties about long-term developments and the range of possible mitigation strategies. Only a few scenario outcomes, such as hydrogen use, are driven by other scenario assumptions, reflecting the need for more scenario differentiation.

This attribution analysis distinguishes areas of consensus as well as strong model dependency, providing a crucial step in correctly interpreting scenario results for robust decision-making.


PBL Authors
Mark Dekker Andries Hof Maarten van den Berg Vassilis Daioglou Rik van Heerden Detlef van Vuuren
Other authors
Kaj-Ivar van der Wijst


Publication title
Spread in climate policy scenarios unravelled
Publication date
13 December 2023
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