Climate Science: Emissions Scenarios

September 13, 2017

Modeling the future of our climate is a complex task that not too many people understand. What do we know about how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC) modeling actually works? Why has the modeling community decided to model emissions separately from socioeconomic scenarios? When we hear that the RCP8.5 emissions scenario is considered a “business as usual” scenario, what assumptions are we making about all that business? And are those assumptions reasonable? Is there a climate scenario that represents an optimistic view of energy transition over the coming decades? And if so, what does it assume about the energy technologies that we will switch away from, and switch to?

These and many other questions are answered in this two-hour discussion on emissions modeling by an expert climate modeler from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), who co-chairs the working group on future scenarios for impacts, adaptation and vulnerability indicators of the International Committee On New Integrated Climate Change Assessment Scenarios. It’s a wonktastic deep dive into an esoteric subject… and it just may leave you feeling a lot more hopeful about the prospects for energy transition, and for our planet.

Geek rating: 9

Guest: Dr. Bastiaan J. van Ruijven is a Project Scientist with the Integrated Assessment Modeling group at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO and Visiting Research Scholar at the Boston University Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. Bas holds an MSc in Environmental Science (2004) and a PhD in Energy Science (2008) from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Between 2008 and 2011, Bas was Policy Researcher at the IMAGE Integrated Assessment group at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

On Twitter: @vruijven

On the Web:  Staff page at NCAR

Recording date: August 11, 2017

Air date: September 6, 2017


Teaser photo credit: By Vinny Burgoo – Self-made using data from the World Resources Institute and a blank map by Canuckguy and others, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Chris Nelder

Chris is an energy analyst, journalist, and investor, who consults and lectures on energy investing and policy. During a decade of studying energy, he has written two books on investing and energy Profit from the Peak and Investing in Renewable Energy, as well as over 900 blog posts and articles.

Tags: climate change, climate models, greenhouse gas emissions