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Describing Socioeconomic Futures for Climate Change Research and Assessment: Report of a Workshop
PLAN OF THE REPORT
This report is a summary of the presentations at the workshop and the discussions flowing from the presentations during the sessions outlined in the agenda. It is important to be specific about its nature: the report documents the information presented in the workshop presentations and discussions. The report is confined to the material presented by the workshop speakers and participants. Neither the workshop nor this summary is intended as a comprehensive review of what is known about the topic, although it is a general reflection of the literature. The presentations and discussions were limited by the time available for the workshop.
Although this report was prepared by the panel, it does not represent findings or recommendations that can be attributed to the panel members. The report summarizes views expressed by workshop participants, and the panel is responsible only for its overall quality and accuracy as a record of what transpired at the workshop. Also, the workshop was not designed to generate consensus conclusions or recommendations but focused instead on the identification of ideas, themes, and considerations that contribute to understanding the topic.
Thomas Wilbanks, chair of NRC’s Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change, welcomed the participants on behalf of the committee and the Climate Research Committee, which jointly planned and organized the workshop. He pointed out the importance of getting the science right for the next assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He noted that publication of the first peer-reviewed publication on representative concentration pathways (RCPs) was scheduled for February 11 in Nature (Moss et al., 2010).1
RCPs involve a new approach to scenario development that recognizes that many scenarios of socioeconomic and technological development can lead to the same pathways of radiative forcing (changes in the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation to the atmosphere caused by changes in the concentrations of atmospheric constituents). Selecting a few RCPs for emphasis allows researchers to develop scenarios for the different ways the world might reach those RCPs and to consider the consequences of climate change when those RCPs are reached via specific scenarios. This approach has been proposed to increase research coordination and reduce the time needed to generate useful scenarios.