Special Issue of Climatic Change journal on the Representative Concentration Pathways released

A new special issue of the journal, Climatic Change, describes four new key scenarios for the climate research community: the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCPs). The RCPs describe a wide range of potential futures for the main drivers of climate change:
greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions and land use. The scenarios cover the range from high emission futures to scenarios consistent with the 2 °C target.

The Climatic Change special issue includes 10 papers that describe the individual RCPs, the various integrative activities that were necessary to produce the RCPs, and extensions of the RCPs to the year 2300.

The RCPs break new ground in several ways:

  1. They include some of the highest and lowest scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions examined by the climate modelling community and now include scenarios with explicit climate mitigation, unlike the SRES scenarios, which focused on no-climate policy worlds only. The lowest scenario is consistent with the aims to limit the increase of global mean temperature to less than 2°C
  2. They provide gridded information on land use for the first time, and include gridded information on emissions relevant for short-lived climate forcers, such as sulphur aerosols, in addition to emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases;
  3. They include four very long-term extensions to the year 2300 to explore very long-term climate impacts;

The RCPs were developed by a cooperative process across various disciplines involved in climate research; the quantification was led by the Integrated Assessment Modeling Consortium (IAMC).

Scenarios are designed to allow researchers to explore the long-term consequences of decisions made today, while taking account of the inertia in both the socio-economic and physical system. As such, scenarios help to explore the costs and benefits of climate policy. RCPs will be used directly in experiments run by climate and Earth system models. Among others, the form a direct input into the experiments run for the new IPCC report. The scenarios will also provide an important reference point for new research with technological and economic models.