188.8.131.52 Inverse modelling and guardrail analysis
Inverse modelling approaches such as Safe Landing Analysis (Swart et al., 1998) and Tolerable Windows Approach (Toth, 2003), aim to define a guardrail of allowable emissions for sets of unacceptable impacts or intolerable mitigation costs. They explore how the set of viable emissions pathways is constrained by parameters such as the starting date, the rate of emission reductions, or the environmental constraints. They provide insights into the influence of short-term decisions on long-term targets by delineating allowable emissions corridor, but they do not prescribe unique emissions pathways, as per cost-effectiveness or costs-benefit analysis.
For example, Toth et al. (2002) draw on climate impact response functions (CIRFs) by Füssel and van Minnen (2001) that use detailed biophysical models to estimate regionally specific, non-monetized impacts for different sectors (i.e. agricultural production, forestry, water runoff and biome changes). They show that the business-as-usual scenario of GHG emissions (which resembles the SRES A2 scenario) to 2040 precludes the possibility of limiting the worldwide transformation of ecosystems to 30% or less, even with very high willingness to pay for the mitigation of GHG emissions afterwards. Some applications of guardrail analyses assess the relationship between emission pathways and abrupt change such as thermohaline circulation (THC) collapse (Rahmstorf and Zickfeld, 2005). The latter study concludes that stringent mitigation policy reduces the probability of THC collapse but cannot entirely avoid the risk of shutdown.
Corfee-Morlot and Höhne (2003) conclude that only low stabilization targets (e.g. 450 ppmv CO2 or 550 ppmv CO2-eq) significantly reduce the likelihood of climate change impacts. They use an inverse analysis to conclude that more than half of the SRES (baseline) emission scenarios leave this objective virtually out of reach as of 2020.
More generally, referring to Table 3.10, if the peaking of global emissions is postponed beyond the next 15 years to a time period somewhere between the next 15–55 years, then constraining global temperature rise to below 2°C above 1990 (2.6°C above pre-industrial levels) becomes unlikely (using ‘best estimate’ assumptions of climate sensitivity), resulting in increased risks of the impacts listed in Table 3.11 and discussed in Section 3.5.2.