, Volume 109, Issue 1-2, pp 33-57,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 13 Aug 2011

RCP 8.5—A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions

Abstract

This paper summarizes the main characteristics of the RCP8.5 scenario. The RCP8.5 combines assumptions about high population and relatively slow income growth with modest rates of technological change and energy intensity improvements, leading in the long term to high energy demand and GHG emissions in absence of climate change policies. Compared to the total set of Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), RCP8.5 thus corresponds to the pathway with the highest greenhouse gas emissions. Using the IIASA Integrated Assessment Framework and the MESSAGE model for the development of the RCP8.5, we focus in this paper on two important extensions compared to earlier scenarios: 1) the development of spatially explicit air pollution projections, and 2) enhancements in the land-use and land-cover change projections. In addition, we explore scenario variants that use RCP8.5 as a baseline, and assume different degrees of greenhouse gas mitigation policies to reduce radiative forcing. Based on our modeling framework, we find it technically possible to limit forcing from RCP8.5 to lower levels comparable to the other RCPs (2.6 to 6 W/m2). Our scenario analysis further indicates that climate policy-induced changes of global energy supply and demand may lead to significant co-benefits for other policy priorities, such as local air pollution.