Pioneering study develops shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs) to equip research on UK climate resilience

Commissioned by the Met Office and funded by the UK Climate Resilience Programme, this pioneering interdisciplinary research developed a set of UK-SSPs (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways) that are consistent with the global SSPs, and provides a series of innovative products that will aid future research into the UK’s climate resilience.

The global SSPs, used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are a set of plausible socio-economic future outlooks up to 2100 that provide the challenging context within which future decisions on climate change mitigation and adaptation must be determined and implemented.

SSPs are considered an essential part of global and national climate resilience because they recognise the interrelation between physical climate change and socio-economic factors. Until now, UK-specific versions of the global SSPs have been unavailable, but this study fills this gap.

Cambridge Econometrics led a partnership with UK Centre of Ecology & Hydrology, University of Edinburgh, and University of Exeter to develop the UK-SSPs, producing five scenario pathways with a host of products that can be used by the climate resilience research community.

The completion of the UK-SSPs follows the Climate Change Committee’s recently published 3rd Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3) which was launched last week. The UK-SSPs are likely to be key underpinning datasets for the 4th CCRA, enabling UK government to take account of socio-economic change, as well as climate change in the assessment of future risks.

Five project products are hosted here and are summarised as follows:

  1. Scenario fact sheets containing a detailed narrative of each UK-SSP
  2. Systems diagram videos showing the interrelationships between the socio-economic drivers in each scenario
  3. Semi-quantitative trends for 50 socioeconomic variables
  4. Quantified spatial projections for 25 key socioeconomic variables
  5. Interface for exploring and accessing each UK-SSP

Jon Stenning, Principal Investigator and Head of Environment at Cambridge Econometrics commented on the completion of the project,

This analysis fills a key gap in existing climate resilience research by providing a set of socio-economic scenarios, consistent with existing global modelling, upon which future research can be based. Having a common underpinning for future risk evaluations will strengthen the robustness of future analysis and ensure that policy can be developed building on a common base.

Professor Paula Harrison of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology commented on the unique multi-participatory approach to the study,

The UK-SSPs were co-created with a wide range of UK stakeholders covering the four UK nations and a range of sectors (e.g. agriculture, water, biodiversity, infrastructure). The intensive participatory approach ensures that local/regional knowledge and insights are embedded within the UK-SSPs so that they deliver results which will be useful to, and meet the specific needs of, UK research and policy.

Professor Suraje Dessai, Professor of Climate Change Adaptation at the University of Leeds and co-champion of the UK Climate Resilience Programme comments,

Comprehensive assessments of climate change risk require not only information about how the climate could change, but also how society could evolve during this century. The UK-SSP project and products provide this critical information in multiple formats – narratives, semi-quantitative trends and quantified spatial projections – which can now be integrated into climate impact, risk and adaptation assessments by researchers and practitioners. The use of UK-SSPs in research and planning will enhance the robustness of climate adaptation decision-making to uncertainty.

Click here for more information about the project, and here to access and download the products.