Climate Change Scenario Primer

The first tool is our interactive primer that helps you understand what climate change scenarios are and how they are connected to socioeconomics, energy & land use, emissions, climate and climate impacts. We explain the basic terminology to get you started with our visualisation tools.

Visit the primer

What is the vision?

The SENSES project investigates potential socio-economic futures in the face of climate change and how this knowledge can be made accessible to a broader public.

SENSES will develop tools and approaches to make the new generation of climate change scenarios more comprehensible, culminating in a climate service for decision makers. We will identify central needs for this step in a co-creation process between scientists and decision makers from policy and business.

Why should you participate?

In times of high volatility and complexity, the new generation of climate- change scenarios can be a helpful means to investigate potential futures, understanding risks and opportunities.

They allow to take an integrative look on climate change and its impacts (e.g. floods, droughts, etc), but also on adaptation and mitigation - on how socio-economic factors (e.g. population, health, energy, finance, transport, …) factors can change in the face of global warming. Decision makers can benefit substantially from having access to this data.

Who are we looking for?

If you are a national or international climate policy maker, a regional climate scenario user, or are concerned about how future climate change will impact your business, we would like to work with you to identify your information needs in the context of climate change scenarios.

For example, the Climate Scenario Toolkit can help to inform climate policy makers about the global implications of national contributions under the Paris Agreement and business leaders about long-term investment opportunities and risks related to climate change and climate policies. On a regional level, scenarios can be used to explore inter-linkages with other sustainable development goals, e.g. relating to food, water and energy availability and poverty.

Who are we?

The project consortium has internationally recognized expertise in climate change scenario research and design and visualization techniques, and large experience in working with the three user groups targeted in this project.

the project

The new generation of climate change scenarios

Projections / Scenarios

The Climate Change Scenario Toolkit created in the SENSES project supports the understanding of the new generation of climate change scenarios. These scenarios are more integrative than ever and link three columns of input data:

1. Climate change projections
are projections about different components of the climate system to the future. They provide information (e.g. temperature, precipitation, extreme events) on how the climate system would evolve for specific preconditions, e.g. level of CO2 concentration.

2. Climate impact scenarios
are scenarios about potential impacts of climate change. They take into account various affected sectors like the water, agriculture, fisheries, marine ecosystems, coastal infrastructure sectors. Climate change projections are used as input for climate impact models to calculate e.g. changes in maize yields. Climate impact scenarios also depend on assumptions about future socio-economic developments (e.g. population, economic activity, technological progress etc.). Climate impact scenarios provide data (e.g. potential damage, floods) on how the world could look like if specific warming scenarios take place.

3. Mitigation scenarios
These scenarios are meant to describe possible solutions to mitigate climate change. They delineate possible futures about the development of energy, economy, land use and emissions in the world, which are constrained by the fact that the global mean temperature will not exceed an explicit increase (e.g. 2 ° Celsius). As a reference case also scenarios with no or weak climate policies are generated. All of these scenarios depend on assumptions about future socio-economic developments (e.g. population, economic activity, technological progress etc.). Mitigation scenarios and the corresponding reference scenarios provide information (e.g. macro-economic investments, technology costs, land use, greenhouse gas emissions) on how the social and economic system could look like for different levels of climate change mitigation.

Understanding stakeholders’ needs through co-production

“Co-production is not just a word, it’s not just a concept, it is a meeting of minds coming together to find a shared solution.”1

For SENSES this will be as participatory workshops with different groups of stakeholders, where scientists and other groups in society generate new knowledge and technologies together.

The aim of SENSES is to generate tools for debate and deliberation. The interactive approach of co-production prevents that users become detached from the original scenario data, and minimizes the risk that the extracted information is misinterpreted and/or perceived as intransparent. Thus, an essential objective of SENSES is that the developed tools are understandable, accessible, trustworthy, and useful for the stakeholders.

1Think Local Act Personal (2011)

Understanding scenarios through visualization


In the last few years, visualization technology has moved beyond the purview of expert groups for analysis and towards more general and collaborative. Continuing the traditional use of maps, diagrams, and charts, visualizations are now increasingly used for interactive forms of storytelling and information retrieval. The power of visualization in helping people make sense of complex data relies not only on visual representation but also in the interactive tools offered by the interface. It is through interaction that users can explore data and find the views that best support their questions.

Visualizations – like any other software product - can only be used effectively by stakeholders if they have a high level of usability and convey a positive user experience. SENSES objective is to generate visualization tools for debate and deliberation. This requires that they are understandable, accessible, trustworthy and useful for the users.