2.4 Global Futures Scenarios
2.4.1 The Role of Global Futures Scenarios
In contrast to the GHG emission scenarios discussed in sections
2.3 and 2.5 of this chapter, global futures
scenarios do not specifically or uniquely consider GHG emissions. Instead, they
are more general stories of possible future worlds. Global futures
scenarios can complement the more quantitative emission scenario assessments,
because they consider several dimensions that elude quantification, such as
governance, social structures, and institutions, but which are nonetheless important
to the success of mitigation (and adaptation) policies and, more generally,
describe the nature of the future world.
In this assessment, the global futures scenario literature was reviewed to
achieve three objectives. First, it was consulted in order to determine the
range of possible future worlds that have been identified by futurists. This
aids climate change policy analysis by providing a range of potential futures
against which the robustness of policy instruments may be assessed.
Second, global futures scenarios were analyzed to determine whether they displayed
any relationships between the various scenario dimensions and GHG emissions.
Although these relationships are often based entirely on qualitative analysis,
they might nonetheless yield insights about the relationships between some dimensions,
especially those that are difficult to quantify, and emissions.
Third, global futures scenarios may provide a link between the more quantitative
emission scenarios and sustainable development issues. Global futures scenarios
generally provide good coverage of sustainable development issues, while the
quantitative emission scenarios generally provide only limited coverage of these
issues. Linking the global futures scenarios with the quantitative emission
scenarios therefore might also provide a link between the latter and sustainable
2.4.2 Global Futures Scenario Database
An extensive review of the futures literature was conducted and, from this
review, a database of scenarios was constructed. This database contains 124
scenarios from 48 sources.10
Scenarios were selected which were global11,
long-term, and multidimensional in scope. The scenarios consider timelines that
run from the base year to anywhere between 2010 and 2100. Most scenarios are
detailed and comprehensive depictions of possible future worlds, with descriptions
of the social, economic, and environmental characteristics of these worlds.
Others are less detailed but still describe more than one characteristic of
the future world. Some scenarios are derived from the authors judgement
about most likely future conditions. Others are part of sets of possible futures,
usually posited as alternatives to a reference case. Still others are normative
scenarios, in that they describe the authors visions of desirable future
In general, the global futures scenarios provide few quantified projections,
although there are some notable exceptions such as CPB (1992), Meadows et
al. (1992), Duchin et al. (1996), Gallopin et al. (1997),
OECD (1997), Rotmans and de Vries (1997), Glenn and Gordon (1998), Nakicenovic
et al. (1998), and Raskin et al. (1998). Several scenarios explicitly
consider energy use, GHG emissions, and/or future climate change, but not all
of these provide numerical estimates of the relevant variables. These quantified
scenarios are different from the scenarios in the previous
section since they present quantifications of primarily narrative scenarios.
The basis of the scenarios in the previous section is
a purely quantitative analysis of emissions profiles without narrative description.