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Describing Socioeconomic Futures for Climate Change Research and Assessment: Report of a Workshop 6 Lessons from Experience PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SCENARIOS Peter Schwartz Peter Schwartz spoke from personal experience with doing scenarios since 1972 and climate scenarios since 1977, when he was looking at global cooling. In his view, a scenario is a tool for ordering perceptions about alternative futures in which one’s decisions are played out. Its purpose is to improve decision making today, not to get an accurate prediction of the future. The test of success is not in getting the prediction right, but in improving action now. For example, in the 1980s, an oil company asked whether there is a scenario in which the cold war ended. Schwartz’s analysis concluded that there was, and that changed the company’s behavior. Schwartz said the key to effective scenario development is to get the question right. They use the acronym STEEP—for social, technological, economic, environmental, and political—to indicate that these factors interrelate, but all these driving forces do not relate neatly to each other. He compared scenario development to rocket science. “I’m a rocket scientist. This ain’t rocket science. Rocket science is easier. You have reliable equations in rocket science.” He said that experience matters, warning that people are deceiving themselves if they use probabilities, because attending to probabilities leads to inattention to the long tails and to being surprised—an outcome to be avoided. Schwartz emphasized the need to distinguish things that are predetermined from critical uncertainties that make a large difference to long-term
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Describing Socioeconomic Futures for Climate Change Research and Assessment: Report of a Workshop outcomes. There are some predetermined elements in 30-50 year time frames, but not on longer scales. Even demography can change fundamentally in a decade. Even things considered physically impossible can become possible in a decade. The task in modeling, Schwartz emphasized, is to have different models that embody different theories of change—not different runs of the same model, which is sensitivity analysis. Rigorous models are needed that lead to different conclusions—different interpretations of history, leading to different projections. Building models thus requires both rigor and imagination, even for a 50-year time frame. People are remarkably capable of failing to see signals of impending change. Good scenario thinking allows one to see the signals of fundamental change when they arrive. Schwartz concluded by warning that people need to take the idea of story telling seriously, because stories give meaning to facts. THE U.S. NATIONAL ASSESSMENT1 Thomas Wilbanks Thomas Wilbanks spoke about lessons from the U.S. National Assessment (USNA). The first USNA occurred in 1997-2000, with $14 million of federal funding.2 It included 16 regional and 5 sectoral assessments and a top-down overall document. Wilbanks noted that a survey-based effort led by Granger Morgan to gather lessons from the first USNA found that many participants thought the future would be like the present except for the climate, and others thought that nothing useful could be said about the socioeconomic future because it is so complicated (Morgan et al., 2005). Morgan’s group produced a guidance document, asking each group to pick one or two factors that they thought would be influential and to consider different values of these; however, this guidance was little used. The survey study concluded that the process got considerable stakeholder involvement and that those who were heavily involved were more favorable about the process. It concluded that the USNA worked best with the ecosystem topic, which was done very well. People considering the USNA concluded that it was very imperfect, but that a better process would probably have reached the same conclusions. The initial vision of the first USNA was bottom-up; a top-down part 1 The slide presentation, which was prepared primarily by Granger Morgan, is available at http://www7.nationalacademies.org/hdgc/US_National_Assessment_Presentation_by_Granger_Morgan.pdf [November 2010]. 2 Reports of the U.S. National Assessment completed in 2000 can be found at http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/nacc/ [November 2010].
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Describing Socioeconomic Futures for Climate Change Research and Assessment: Report of a Workshop was added during the process, and there was tension about this. Local people found the top-down scenarios not to be dealing with their main concerns. Concerns were also expressed about how to integrate different assessments that were conducted in different ways and funded at very different levels. The USNA process showed that stakeholders can contribute useful content and perspectives and that the process can build communities. Decisions about how to do an assessment and whom to involve need be anchored in a shared idea of why. There needs to be consistent funding and consistent guidance, and there is the challenge of reconciling the need for general conclusions with specific needs. In discussion, it was asked how scenarios might have improved the USNA process. Wilbanks said that there were ideas of socioeconomic futures in the assessments, but not the models. The socioeconomic projections were introduced late and rarely used. It was also suggested that projections from the government often lacked credibility. For example, government projections of immigration assume that the law is obeyed. Kathy Jacobs spoke about planning for the next USNA, which is due in 2013. The first regional meeting will be held in Chicago to build a plan for this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will support 6-10 regional workshops to get input on design of the USNA. The agencies want to learn lessons from the past, but for many of them budgets are tight. It is intended that the USNA will assess capacity for adaptation and mitigation, not just examine impacts as before. Also, many more people will be involved than before. The agencies intend to work out a way to structure a long-term program, not just a single report. In fact, drafting the required report could be seen as a distraction from creating a long-term process. The goals include engaging agencies beyond the U.S. Global Change Research Program and engaging stakeholders. It is important to ask the right questions and to coordinate across regions, sectors, and scales. It will also be necessary to draw clear boundaries between the USNA and the national adaptation strategy, which is expected to deliver a report in September 2010. It is intended that scenarios will be an important part of the process, but it is not yet clear how they will interface with the entire assessment. Jacobs advocated looking at the interaction of regions and sectors; of energy, water, and agriculture; and so forth. She wants more investment in scenarios and in data related to the key issues. She noted that the assessments report of the National Research Council (2007) suggested conducting a broad, blanket assessment that would try to anticipate bad outcomes and that investments should be made in science related to avoiding those outcomes. Several points were raised in discussion:
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Describing Socioeconomic Futures for Climate Change Research and Assessment: Report of a Workshop In response to a question, Jacobs said that national security would be included in the USNA. Jacobs said she would like the USNA to relate to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For example, material prepared for the USNA by June 2013 could be cited in the next IPCC assessment. An interactive support capacity could be set up to help people interpret and apply scenarios. Jacobs noted that, in the past, the USNA provided generic data without asking what was needed. THE MILLENNIUM ECOSYSTEM ASSESSMENT3 Gerald Nelson Gerald Nelson talked about the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), based in part on slides from Detlef Van Vuuren. Focal questions were the consequences of 50 years of development for ecosystems and then for human well-being. The MEA group strongly supported a story line approach and was skeptical about quantitative models; quantitative modeling was decoupled from story line development. Nelson said that ecosystem analysts had trouble sharply defining the boundaries of an ecosystem. The MEA described four worlds, considered equally plausible, called (1) Global Orchestration, (2) Order from Strength, (3) TechnoGarden, and (3) Adapting Mosaic. It used integrated assessment models that had never communicated with each other before. There was little exposure to scenarios and serious jargon problems, some going undiscovered for years. It was easy for participants to talk, more difficult to write scenarios, and even more difficult to quantify them. Nelson concluded that the MEA has had some impacts. For example, the term “ecosystem services” is used more (e.g., in Congress), and there are efforts to pay for these services. There is also increased recognition of the need for agricultural and socioeconomic sciences to talk to each other. However, people quote the MEA as having made policy pronouncements that it did not make. In discussion, it was suggested that the focus on story line narratives and modeling in the MEA was inappropriate. One participant commented that if the main focus was on current impacts and trends, it is no wonder that future scenarios were not a major focus. He suggested that the MEA could have built on hypotheses about end points as a way to focus discussion on how to get there. 3 The presentation is available at http://www7.nationalacademies.org/hdgc/Millennium_Ecosystem_Assessment_Gerald_Nelson.pdf [November 2010].
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Describing Socioeconomic Futures for Climate Change Research and Assessment: Report of a Workshop THE ASIA LOW-CARBON SOCIETY PROJECT4 Mikiko Kainuma Mikiko Kainuma described this project, which started 6 years ago and focused on 2050, looking at compliance by each country with its own targets.5 It has been analyzing what is needed to reach goals using a backcasting approach. The Low-Carbon Society project considered the relationship of each of a long list of issues to the desired state. The study identified 12 actions that would make possible emissions reductions of 70 percent in Japan, as well as the barriers for each. It included the design of a 2050 house and visualization techniques for a low-carbon society. The Japanese government is considering these actions. The project concluded that early investment can reduce cost and enhance energy efficiency, but funds are needed. Technology options have been analyzed for Japan, India, and China. The project has also developed scenarios for Asian cities. Kainuma said that low-carbon visions are needed and that scenarios provide visions and focus on needs (knowledge, institutions, poverty reduction, etc.) but that political leadership is also essential. THE IPCC SPECIAL REPORT ON EMISSIONS SCENARIOS Volker Krey Volker Krey spoke briefly about the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) process on behalf of Nakičenovič and himself. He noted that SRES uses “proxy” drivers, such as population, but does not address “ultimate” drivers, such as values and needs, power structure, and culture. He summarized the ways the SRES scenarios addressed such drivers as population, economic growth, and technological innovation in developing emissions paths. He noted that many of the recent scenarios have population values close to the middle range of the earlier SRES scenarios, so they span a smaller range of values. 4 Kainuma’s presentation is available at http://www7.nationalacademies.org/hdgc/Asia_Low-Carbon_Society_Project_Presentation_by_Mikiko_Kainuma.pdf [November 2010]. 5 For further information on this project, see http://www.lcs2050.com/ [November 2010].
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Describing Socioeconomic Futures for Climate Change Research and Assessment: Report of a Workshop THE UK CLIMATE IMPACTS PROGRAM AND THE NETHERLANDS EXPERIENCE6 Tom Kram Tom Kram spoke from Frans Berkhout’s slides on the experience of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands with scenarios. Started in 1999, the socioeconomic scenarios of the UK Climate Impacts Program (UKCIP) used high-resolution climate modeling and a range of local socioeconomic case studies to identify vulnerable areas.7 The approach was like that of SRES, with schematic story lines developed from a few base parameters. There was also flexibility to tailor scenarios to meet needs. In the Netherlands, the scenario effort focused on impact, adaptation, and vulnerability issues, to determine whether a few socioeconomic scenarios should be used to guide many programs in the country. The effort began with global, then European, and then Dutch scenarios on growth, trade, and so forth. They were merged with a fine-scale, spatially explicit model (possibly 100 meters), to show population changes, land uses, and implications for adaptation. In the future, the researchers want to simplify the models, include feedbacks, examine discontinuities, and develop visualizations. DISCUSSION In the discussion, it was noted that these examples use socioeconomic scenarios in different ways, such as to explore alternative futures (in the MEA) or to show ways to get to certain futures (IPCC and UKCIP). In some cases, they are relatively unused compared with climate scenarios (the USNA). Weyant noted that a model cannot be assessed without a question in mind, and it is useful to consider the different purposes. Sometimes scenario exercises identify where new research is needed. Janetos commented that, in the MEA, pairing natural and social scientists as authors of each chapter in the “conditions and trends” volume was very fruitful when it worked well. Brian O’Neill emphasized the use of scenarios for considering the trade-offs among climate change futures, for example, efforts at mitigation and adaptation. He suggested that there is a need for socioeconomic 6 The presentation is available http://www7.nationalacademies.org/hdgc/Quantitative_Downscaling_Approaches_Presentation_by_Tom_Kram.pdf [November 2010]. 7 The UKCIP develops climate projections and uses the resulting information to help organizations in the United Kingdom adapt to “inevitable climate change.” For further information, see http://www.ukcip.org.uk [November 2010].
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Describing Socioeconomic Futures for Climate Change Research and Assessment: Report of a Workshop scenarios for each RCP. Representative socioeconomic paths could be described on two axes: levels of vulnerability and adaptive capacity on one, and factors that make it easy or hard to mitigate (mitigation capacity) on the other. Socioeconomic factors could make it easy or hard to adapt or mitigate, giving a 2 × 2 matrix. A set of socioeconomic scenarios could be tested against all the RCPs, with research focused on whether they are consistent with each other. Richard Moss supported Schwartz’s idea of thinking about decisions that people can make in the context of scenarios that bound broad visions of the socioeconomic future. Stephane Hallegatte noted that, in France, political pressures restricted the scenarios that could be presented, resulting in politically shaped decisions to look only at vulnerability to the current climate and to exclude impacts on ski resorts. Based on this experience, he wondered whether scenarios will actually be used. Others commented that many people (including decision makers) misunderstand visualizations as predictions and have difficulty making sense of scenarios. In addition, there is a need to consider many different kinds of vulnerability.
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