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The Consistency of IPCC's SRES Scenarios to 1990–2000 Trends and Recent Projections


The greenhouse gas emissions scenarios published by the IPCC in the Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) continue to serve as a primary basis for assessing future climate change and possible response strategies. These scenarios were developed between 1996 and 1999 and sufficient time has now passed to make it worth examining their consistency with more recent data and projections. The comparison performed in this paper includes population, GDP, energy use, and emissions of CO2, non-CO2 gases and sulfur. We find the SRES scenarios to be largely consistent with historical data for the 1990–2000 period and with recent projections. Exceptions to this general observation include (1) in the long-term, relatively high population growth assumptions; in some regions, particularly in the A2 scenario; (2) in the medium-term, relatively high economic growth assumptions in the LAM (Latin America, Africa and Middle East) region in the A1 scenario; (3) in the short-term, CO2 emissions projections in A1 that are somewhat higher than the range of current scenarios; and (4) substantially higher sulfur emissions in some scenarios than in historical data and recent projections. In conclusion, given the relatively small inconsistencies for use as global scenarios there seems to be no immediate need for a large-scale IPCC-led update of the SRES scenarios that is solely based on the SRES scenario performance vis-a-vis data for the 1990–2000 period and/or more recent projections. Based on reported findings, individual research teams could make, and in some cases already have made, useful updates of the scenarios.

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Correspondence to Detlef P. van Vuuren.

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van Vuuren, D.P., O'Neill, B.C. The Consistency of IPCC's SRES Scenarios to 1990–2000 Trends and Recent Projections. Climatic Change 75, 9–46 (2006).

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  • Gross Domestic Product
  • Gross Domestic Product Growth
  • International Energy Agency
  • Sulfur Emission
  • Recent Projection