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Interpreting the IPCC Emissions Scenarios

Robert M. Margolis

October 1992

Robert M. Margolis, October 1992

This paper discusses how two sets of emissions scenarios, generated using the Atmospheric Stabilization Framework, were used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In particular it discusses how the scenarios were specified, what roles models played in developing the scenarios, and how the scenarios were interpreted by participants in the IPCC process. It draws on the results of interviews conducted with 14 participants in the IPCC process.

After looking at how both sets of IPCC emissions scenarios were defined and interpreted it is clear that analysts need to explore the effects of policies in the context of uncertainty. Thus, instead of testing policy options on a single future and/or generating a range of possible futures in the absence of policy intervention, analysts need to investigate the effectiveness of various policy options across an entire set of possible futures. Conducting this sort of analysis would be an important step beyond the IPCC emissions scenarios.

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