IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Global futures scenarios

Global futures scenarios are deeply rooted in the long history of narrative scenarios (Carpenter et al., 2005; UNEP, 2002). The direct antecedents of contemporary scenarios lie with the future studies of the 1970s (Raskin et al., 2005). These responded to emerging concerns about the long-term sufficiency of natural resources to support expanding global populations and economies. This first wave of global scenarios included ambitious mathematical simulation models (Meadows et al., 1972; Mesarovic and Pestel, 1974) as well as speculative narrative (Kahn et al., 1976). At this time, scenario analysis was first used at Royal Dutch/Shell as a strategic management technique (Wack, 1985a, 1985b; Schwartz, 1991).

A second round of integrated global analysis began in the late 1980s and 1990s, prompted by concerns with climate change and sustainable development. These included narratives of alternative futures ranging from ‘optimistic’ and ‘pessimistic’ worlds to consideration of ‘surprising’ futures (Burrows et al., 1991; the Central Planning Bureau of the Netherlands, 1992; Kaplan, 1994; Svedin and Aniansson, 1987; Toth et al., 1989). The long-term nature of the climate change issue introduced a new dimension and has resulted in a rich new literature of global emissions scenarios, starting from the IPCC IS92 scenarios (Pepper et al., 1992; Leggett et al., 1992) and most recent scenario comparisons projects (e.g. EMF and IMCP). The first decades of scenario assessment paved the way by showing the power – and limits – of both deterministic modelling and descriptive future analyses. A central challenge of global scenario exercises today is to unify these two aspects by blending the objectivity and clarity of quantification with the richness of narrative (Raskin et al., 2005).