Article

Climatic Change

, Volume 109, Issue 1, pp 5-31

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The representative concentration pathways: an overview

  • Detlef P. van VuurenAffiliated withPBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment AgencyUtrecht University Email author 
  • , Jae EdmondsAffiliated withJoint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland
  • , Mikiko KainumaAffiliated withNational Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES)
  • , Keywan RiahiAffiliated withInternational Institute for Applied System Analysis
  • , Allison ThomsonAffiliated withJoint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland
  • , Kathy HibbardAffiliated withAtmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland
  • , George C. HurttAffiliated withPBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment AgencyJoint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of MarylandDepartment of Geography, University of Maryland
  • , Tom KramAffiliated withPBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
  • , Volker KreyAffiliated withInternational Institute for Applied System Analysis
    • , Jean-Francois LamarqueAffiliated withAtmospheric Chemistry Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research
    • , Toshihiko MasuiAffiliated withNational Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES)
    • , Malte MeinshausenAffiliated withPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
    • , Nebojsa NakicenovicAffiliated withInternational Institute for Applied System AnalysisVienna University of Technology
    • , Steven J. SmithAffiliated withJoint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland
    • , Steven K. RoseAffiliated withElectric Power Research Institute

Abstract

This paper summarizes the development process and main characteristics of the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), a set of four new pathways developed for the climate modeling community as a basis for long-term and near-term modeling experiments. The four RCPs together span the range of year 2100 radiative forcing values found in the open literature, i.e. from 2.6 to 8.5 W/m2. The RCPs are the product of an innovative collaboration between integrated assessment modelers, climate modelers, terrestrial ecosystem modelers and emission inventory experts. The resulting product forms a comprehensive data set with high spatial and sectoral resolutions for the period extending to 2100. Land use and emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases are reported mostly at a 0.5 × 0.5 degree spatial resolution, with air pollutants also provided per sector (for well-mixed gases, a coarser resolution is used). The underlying integrated assessment model outputs for land use, atmospheric emissions and concentration data were harmonized across models and scenarios to ensure consistency with historical observations while preserving individual scenario trends. For most variables, the RCPs cover a wide range of the existing literature. The RCPs are supplemented with extensions (Extended Concentration Pathways, ECPs), which allow climate modeling experiments through the year 2300. The RCPs are an important development in climate research and provide a potential foundation for further research and assessment, including emissions mitigation and impact analysis.