Will economic growth and fossil fuel scarcity help or hinder climate stabilization?

Overview of the RoSE multi-model study


We investigate the extent to which future energy transformation pathways meeting ambitious climate change mitigation targets depend on assumptions about economic growth and fossil fuel availability. The analysis synthesizes results from the RoSE multi-model study aiming to identify robust and sensitive features of mitigation pathways under these inherently uncertain drivers of energy and emissions developments. Based on an integrated assessment model comparison exercise, we show that economic growth and fossil resource assumptions substantially affect baseline developments, but in no case they lead to the significant greenhouse gas emission reduction that would be needed to achieve long-term climate targets without dedicated climate policy. The influence of economic growth and fossil resource assumptions on climate mitigation pathways is relatively small due to overriding requirements imposed by long-term climate targets. While baseline assumptions can have substantial effects on mitigation costs and carbon prices, we find that the effects of model differences and the stringency of the climate target are larger compared to that of baseline assumptions. We conclude that inherent uncertainties about socio-economic determinants like economic growth and fossil resource availability can be effectively dealt with in the assessment of mitigation pathways.

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  1. 1.

    The RoSE project has been conducted over the period 2010–2013 using model versions as of 2010. Updated versions of each model have been developed since then, and are documented at the following websites. GCAM: http://wiki.umd.edu/gcam. REMIND: http://pik-potsdam.de/research/sustainable-solutions/models/remind and https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/ADVIAM/REMIND. WITCH, http://doc.witchmodel.org/ and https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/ADVIAM/WITCH IPAC: http://www.ipac-model.org.

  2. 2.

    Since then, the UN population projections have increased and no longer project a population peak in the 21st century. The UN 2015 revision gives a medium estimate of 11.2 billion people by 2100.

  3. 3.

    The AR5 scenario database contained 228 baseline scenarios to 2100, including the RoSE scenarios of GCAM, REMIND, and WITCH.

  4. 4.

    IPAC did not report carbon prices and mitigation costs in the RoSE study.

  5. 5.

    Near term carbon prices may be affected by additional energy policy assumptions and choice of model time steps, while long term prices can be affected by different ways on how to implement the forcing target (exponentially increasing carbon prices to meet a carbon budget vs. saturating price trajectories once the forcing target is approached).

  6. 6.

    The FS Gr SL Conv and the HI Gas scenarios were excluded from the sensitivity analysis since they were not calculated by all models. Since they are intermediate cases, their inclusion is not expected to affect results significantly.


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The RoSE project, this work and the additional studies presented in the RoSE special issue were supported by Stiftung Mercator. RJB acknowledges support from the German-American Fulbright Foundation while at PIK.

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Correspondence to Elmar Kriegler.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “The Impact of Economic Growth and Fossil Fuel Availability on Climate Protection” with Guest Editors Elmar Kriegler, Ioanna Mouratiadou, Gunnar Luderer, Jae Edmonds, and Ottmar Edenhofer

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Kriegler, E., Mouratiadou, I., Luderer, G. et al. Will economic growth and fossil fuel scarcity help or hinder climate stabilization?. Climatic Change 136, 7–22 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1668-3

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  • Climate Policy
  • Carbon Price
  • Carbon Intensity
  • Mitigation Cost
  • Carbon Prex