Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

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13.1.6. Socioeconomic Scenarios for Europe

The four socioeconomic global futures (or SRES scenarios) described in Chapter 3 of this assessment have been characterized for Europe in the European ACACIA study (Jordan et al., 2000), and are summarized below:

  • Under a “World Market” (A1) scenario, the world becomes increasingly globalized, and materialist-consumerist social values predominate. Global societal values are primarily technocentric and short-termist. Nature therefore is assumed to be largely resilient to human stress. The emphasis is on pursuing economic growth in the narrow sense rather than sustainable development. Although rising income levels will make everyone in Europe richer, the poorest will gain relatively little. The EU functions as a single interconnected market, functionally integrated with other regional markets (e.g., in Asia and North America).
  • Under a “Global Sustainability” (B1) scenario, Europe is run along more communitarian lines and within environmental resource limits. There is a strong emphasis on finding international solutions to globally interconnected problems. Thus, EU member states pool more and more of their sovereignty to address common environmental problems, the causes of which are considered to lie in the basic structure of society. The role of international institutions, including the EU, will extend from simply regulating environmental problems to tackling social inequality and social exclusion through adoption of social programs.
  • In a “Provincial Enterprise” (A2) scenario, Europe is much more heterogeneous. Increasingly, the organization of society is dictated by short-term consumerist values. More policy decisions are taken at a national and subnational level. Europe adopts more protectionist economic and trade policies, which constrain innovation and stifle economic development, particularly in developing countries. Growth in global GDP is more modest than under the A1 scenario, and global inequality grows. Declining equity within and between member states of the EU produces tension and social exclusion. This typifies the uneasy tension in this scenario between the simultaneous desire for “free markets” (consumerist values) and protection of national state sovereignty. Politicians prioritize demands such as protecting the national economy and meeting short-term consumer demands for growth over environmental quality.
  • In a “Local Sustainability” (B2) scenario, Europe is more committed to solving environmental problems by applying solutions that are attuned to local needs and circumstances. Thus, the dominant value system is more communitarian and ecocentric in nature, with greater commitment to longer term, strategic planning. In a sense, the shift in governance down to the local level accords with the principle of subsidiarity. National governments therefore are left to perform residual functions that cannot be undertaken at the subnational level. Small firms thrive under these conditions, whereas multinationals struggle to realign themselves to local needs. Overall, the world (including Europe) is more heterogeneous. Because of the lack of coordinated regional action, however, relative inequality may increase as local problems receive higher priority than those in other regions. Significantly, the environment benefits under this scenario, but not nearly as much as under B1 because of the limited extent of spatial coordination.

Figure 13-5: Scatter plot depicting scaled outputs of mean winter (left panels) and summer (right panels) temperature and precipitation change over land grid boxes representing Spain (top), Sweden (middle), and Poland (bottom) from each of seven GCM simulations (GFDL simulations are not shown because they extend only to 2025). Lines connect four points for each GCM simulation, each point representing standardized regional changes in climate from the GCM, linearly scaled according to global warming from each of the four ACACIA scenarios. The order of points along a line from the origin is the same for all plots: B1-low, B2-mid, A1-mid, A2-high. Also plotted are 1 and 2 standard deviation limits from 1,400-year HadCM2 unforced simulation, which is used to indicate natural multi-decadal variability.

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