Climate Change 2001:
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2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Scenarios

2.1 Scenarios

A long-term view of a multiplicity of future possibilities is required to consider the ultimate risks of climate change, assess critical interactions with other aspects of human and environmental systems, and guide policy responses. Scenarios offer a structured means of organizing information and gleaning insight on the possibilities.

Each mitigation scenario describes a particular future world, with particular economic, social, and environmental characteristics, and they therefore implicitly or explicitly contain information about DES. Since the difference between reference case scenarios and stabilization and mitigation scenarios is simply the addition of deliberate climate policy, it can be the case that the differences in emissions among different reference case scenarios are greater than those between any one such scenario and its stabilization or mitigation version.

This section presents an overview of three scenario literatures: general mitigation scenarios produced since the SAR, narrative-based scenarios found in the general futures literature, and mitigation scenarios based on the new reference scenarios developed in the IPCC SRES.

2.2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Mitigation Scenarios

This report considers the results of 519 quantitative emissions scenarios from 188 sources, mainly produced after 1990. The review focuses on 126 mitigation scenarios that cover global emissions and have a time horizon encompassing the coming century. Technological improvement is a critical element in all the general mitigation scenarios.

Based on the type of mitigation, the scenarios fall into four categories: concentration stabilization scenarios, emission stabilization scenarios, safe emission corridor scenarios, and other mitigation scenarios. All the reviewed scenarios include energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions; several also include CO2 emissions from land-use changes and industrial processes, and other important GHGs.

Policy options used in the reviewed mitigation scenarios take into account energy systems, industrial processes, and land use, and depend on the underlying model structure. Most of the scenarios introduce simple carbon taxes or constraints on emissions or concentration levels. Regional targets are introduced in the models with regional disaggregation. Emission permit trading is introduced in more recent work. Some models employ policies of supply-side technology introduction, while others emphasize efficient demand-side technology.

Allocation of emission reduction among regions is a contentious issue. Only some studies, particularly recent ones, make explicit assumptions about such allocations in their scenarios. Some studies offer global emission trading as a mechanism to reduce mitigation costs.

Technological improvement is a critical element in all the general mitigation scenarios.

Detailed analysis of the characteristics of 31 scenarios for stabilization of CO2 concentrations at 550 ppmv4 (and their baseline scenarios) yielded several insights:

Only a small set of studies has reported on scenarios for mitigating non-CO2 gases. This literature suggests that small reductions of GHG emissions can be accomplished at lower cost by including non-CO2 gases; that both CO2 and non-CO2 emissions would have to be controlled in order to slow the increase of atmospheric temperature sufficiently to achieve climate targets assumed in the studies; and that methane (CH4) mitigation can be carried out more rapidly, with a more immediate impact on the atmosphere, than CO2 mitigation.

Generally, it is clear that mitigation scenarios and mitigation policies are strongly related to their baseline scenarios, but no systematic analysis has been published on the relationship between mitigation and baseline scenarios.

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