The B2 world is one of increased concern for environmental and social sustainability compared to the A2 storyline. Increasingly, government policies and business strategies at the national and local levels are influenced by environmentally aware citizens, with a trend toward local self-reliance and stronger communities. International institutions decline in importance, with a shift toward local and regional decision-making structures and institutions. Human welfare, equality, and environmental protection all have high priority, and they are addressed through community-based social solutions in addition to technical solutions, although implementation rates vary across regions.
Like the other scenario families, the B2 scenario family includes futures that can be seen as positive or negative. While the B2 storyline is basically neutral, Kinsman (1990) in his "Caring Autonomy" scenario clearly paints a positive world with emphasis on decentralized governments and strong interpersonal relationships. In the "New Civics" scenario by Wilkerson (1995), values are only shared within small competing groups, which results in a decentralized world of tribes, clans, families, networks, and gangs. The IIASA-WEC "Middle Course" scenario (Nakic´enovic´ et al., 1998), with slow removal of trade barriers, may also be grouped in this family. On the positive side, this storyline appears to be consistent with current institutional frameworks in the world and with the current technology dynamics. On the negative side is the relatively slow rate of development in general, but particularly in the currently developing parts of the world.
Education and welfare programs are pursued widely, which reduces mortality and, to a lesser extent, fertility. The population reaches about 10 billion people by 2100, consistent with both the UN and IIASA median projections. Income per capita grows at an intermediate rate to reach about US$12,000 by 2050. By 2100 the global economy might expand to reach some US$250 trillion. International income differences decrease, although not as rapidly as in storylines of higher global convergence. Local inequity is reduced considerably through the development of stronger community-support networks.
Generally, high educational levels promote both development and environmental protection. Indeed, environmental protection is one of the few truly international common priorities that remain in B2. However, strategies to address global environmental challenges are not of a central priority and are thus less successful compared to local and regional environmental response strategies. The governments have difficulty designing and implementing agreements that combine global environmental protection, even when this could be associated with mutual economic benefits.
The B2 storyline presents a particularly favorable climate for community initiative and social innovation, especially in view of the high educational levels. Technological frontiers are pushed less than they are in A1 and B1, and innovations are also regionally more heterogeneous. Globally, investment in energy R&D continues its current declining trend (EIA, 1997, 1999), and mechanisms for international diffusion of technology and know-how remain weaker than in scenarios A1 and B1 (but higher than in A2). Some regions with rapid economic development and limited natural resources place particular emphasis on technology development and bilateral cooperation. Technical change is therefore uneven. The energy intensity of GDP declines at about 1% per year, in line with the average historical experience since 1800.
Land-use management becomes better integrated at the local level in the B2 world. Urban and transport infrastructure is a particular focus of community innovation, and contributes to a low level of car dependence and less urban sprawl. An emphasis on food self-reliance contributes to a shift in dietary patterns toward local products, with relatively low meat consumption in countries with high population densities.
Energy systems differ from region to region, depending on the availability of natural resources. The need to use energy and other resources more efficiently spurs the development of less carbon-intensive technology in some regions. Environment policy cooperation at the regional level leads to success in the management of some transboundary environmental problems, such as acidification caused by sulfur dioxide (SO2 ), especially to sustain regional self-reliance in agricultural production. Regional cooperation also results in lower emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which reduce the incidence of elevated tropospheric ozone levels. Although globally the energy system remains predominantly hydrocarbon-based to 2100, a gradual transition occurs away from the current share of fossil resources in world energy supply, with a corresponding reduction in carbon intensity.
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