SSP narratives

Narratives have been developed for the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) (O’Neill et al., 2015 [78]). These descriptions of alternative futures of societal development span a range of possible worlds that stretch along two climate-change-related dimensions: mitigation and adaptation challenges. The SSPs reflect five different developments of the world that are characterized by varying levels of global challenges (see Riahi et al., 2016 [97] for an overview). In the following, the three narratives that have been translated into quantitative scenarios with MESSAGE-GLOBIOM are presented (Fricko et al., 2016 [27]):

SSP1 Narrative: Sustainability — Taking the green road

“The world shifts gradually, but pervasively, toward a more sustainable path, emphasizing more inclusive development that respects perceived environmental boundaries. Increasing evidence of and accounting for the social, cultural, and economic costs of environmental degradation and inequality drive this shift. Management of the global commons slowly improves, facilitated by increasingly effective and persistent cooperation and collaboration of local, national, and international organizations and institutions, the private sector, and civil society. Educational and health investments accelerate the demographic transition, leading to a relatively low population. Beginning with current high-income countries, the emphasis on economic growth shifts toward a broader emphasis on human well-being, even at the expense of somewhat slower economic growth over the longer term. Driven by an increasing commitment to achieving development goals, inequality is reduced both across and within countries. Investment in environmental technology and changes in tax structures lead to improved resource efficiency, reducing overall energy and resource use and improving environmental conditions over the longer term. Increased investment, financial incentives and changing perceptions make renewable energy more attractive. Consumption is oriented toward low material growth and lower resource and energy intensity. The combination of directed development of environmentally friendly technologies, a favorable outlook for renewable energy, institutions that can facilitate international cooperation, and relatively low energy demand results in relatively low challenges to mitigation. At the same time, the improvements in human well-being, along with strong and flexible global, regional, and national institutions imply low challenges to adaptation.” (O’Neill et al., 2015 [78])

SSP2 Narrative: Middle of the Road

“The world follows a path in which social, economic, and technological trends do not shift markedly from historical patterns. Development and income growth proceed unevenly, with some countries making relatively good progress while others fall short of expectations. Most economies are politically stable. Globally connected markets function imperfectly. Global and national institutions work toward but make slow progress in achieving sustainable development goals, including improved living conditions and access to education, safe water, and health care. Technological development proceeds apace, but without fundamental breakthroughs. Environmental systems experience degradation, although there are some improvements and overall the intensity of resource and energy use declines. Even though fossil fuel dependency decreases slowly, there is no reluctance to use unconventional fossil resources. Global population growth is moderate and levels off in the second half of the century as a consequence of completion of the demographic transition. However, education investments are not high enough to accelerate the transition to low fertility rates in low-income countries and to rapidly slow population growth. This growth, along with income inequality that persists or improves only slowly, continuing societal stratification, and limited social cohesion, maintain challenges to reducing vulnerability to societal and environmental changes and constrain significant advances in sustainable development. These moderate development trends leave the world, on average, facing moderate challenges to mitigation and adaptation, but with significant heterogeneities across and within countries.” (O’Neill et al., 2015 [78])

SSP3 Narrative: Regional rivalry — A rocky road

“A resurgent nationalism, concerns about competitiveness and security, and regional conflicts push countries to increasingly focus on domestic or, at most, regional issues. This trend is reinforced by the limited number of comparatively weak global institutions, with uneven coordination and cooperation for addressing environmental and other global concerns. Policies shift over time to become increasingly oriented toward national and regional security issues, including barriers to trade, particularly in the energy resource and agricultural markets. Countries focus on achieving energy and food security goals within their own regions at the expense of broader-based development, and in several regions move toward more authoritarian forms of government with highly regulated economies. Investments in education and technological development decline. Economic development is slow, consumption is material-intensive, and inequalities persist or worsen over time, especially in developing countries. There are pockets of extreme poverty alongside pockets of moderate wealth, with many countries struggling to maintain living standards and provide access to safe water, improved sanitation, and health care for disadvantaged populations. A low international priority for addressing environmental concerns leads to strong environmental degradation in some regions. The combination of impeded development and limited environmental concern results in poor progress toward sustainability. Population growth is low in industrialized and high in developing countries. Growing resource intensity and fossil fuel dependency along with difficulty in achieving international cooperation and slow technological change imply high challenges to mitigation. The limited progress on human development, slow income growth, and lack of effective institutions, especially those that can act across regions, implies high challenges to adaptation for many groups in all regions.” (O’Neill et al., 2015 [78])