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Impacts and risks from high‐end scenarios: Strategies for innovative solutions

There is widespread acceptance that the climate is changing. Although the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting in Paris in December 2015 agreed to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre‐industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, projections based on current emission trends point to much more substantial warming, with possible increases of 4°C or more in the long‐term unless there is much more radical action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the increasing plausibility of these high‐end scenarios, there are few studies that assess their potential impacts, the ability of adaptation options to reduce vulnerabilities, and the potential synergies and trade‐offs between adaptation and mitigation. Thus, it is vital that decision‐makers have access to reliable scientific information on these uncertain, but potentially high‐risk, scenarios of the future to inform adaptation planning.

The overall objective of IMPRESSIONS is to advance understanding of the consequences of high‐end climate change through the development of an integrated set of multi‐scale, high‐end climate and socio‐economic scenarios and their application to improved models for analysing impacts, vulnerability and adaptation. Adaptation and mitigation pathways that address these impacts and vulnerabilities are being generated with stakeholders. The pathways are being analysed to assess the need for transformative strategies that take account of potential synergies and trade‐offs between adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development. It will also be evaluated how the new knowledge gained from the scenarios, impact modelling and pathways can be embedded within decision‐making processes, so that effective climate governance plans are conceived that deal with adaptation and mitigation in a synergistic way.

The main approach is to develop new scenarios and models of the impacts of high levels of climate change, and apply these to five case studies at different geographical scales: Europe; regional or local (Scotland, Iberia and Hungary); and an EU External case study that looks at interactions between Europe, Central Asia, Russia and China. Different adaptation and mitigation options will then be assessed for each case study, in order to help decision‐makers identify strategies that are robust for a range of possible futures.

This is being achieved through the following steps:

  • Establish decision‐maker needs. In‐depth interviews and stakeholder workshops to understand what tools and knowledge decision‐makers need in order to make robust and effective decisions on adaptation and mitigation in the face of highly uncertain scientific information;
  • Develop integrated climate and socio‐economic scenarios. Work closely with stakeholders in the five case studies to create a set of integrated high‐end climate and socio‐economic scenarios that include potential tipping points;
  • Develop robust methods and models to assess climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation options. Integrate a wide range of existing and new spatial models of impacts and adaptation into a single assessment framework, to analyse the complex interactions, synergies and trade‐offs between different sectors such as agriculture, forestry, urban development and tourism as they compete for land, water and energy, and the resulting impacts on health and biodiversity;
  • Develop adaptation and mitigation pathways. Work with stakeholders in each case study to develop adaptation and mitigation pathways which will be tested with the models;
  • Analyse risks, opportunities, costs and benefits of adaptation and mitigation. Evaluate the adaptation and mitigation pathways developed by stakeholders, studying the effectiveness over time of different pathways in the face of high‐end climate and socio‐economic scenarios, which could include non‐linear changes and tipping points. Develop recommendations on robust new policy strategies and pathways, including the risks and opportunities of different policy options, in order to provide integrated and potentially transformative solutions that help society plan for the long‐term in the context of high levels of climate change;
  • Knowledge exchange and dissemination. Communicate the results to a broad community of stakeholders to maximise their active participation in the research and enhance current approaches to climate change policies and actions.

The main outcomes from IMPRESSIONS will be:

  • A more thorough understanding of decision‐makers' needs for increasing the robustness of decisions in response to high‐end climate change scenarios;
  • A set of integrated high‐end climate and more extreme socio‐economic scenarios covering global, European and regional/local scales;
  • Improved quantification and mapping of cross‐sectoral impacts, risks and vulnerabilities associated with high‐end scenarios along with consideration of their uncertainties;
  • Advances in how adaptation is modelled by incorporating a more comprehensive representation of associated constraints, triggers, time lags and consequences;
  • New models which simulate adaptation as a process by representing the behavior of decision‐makers, firms and institutions as learning and interacting agents;
  • Assessment of the robustness of current policies and the need for transformative strategies to deal with high‐end scenarios.
  • A set of sustainable development transition pathways that offer options for harmonising adaptation and mitigation strategies to enable society to adapt effectively to potential impacts under high‐end scenarios and across multiple scales;
  • A knowledge network and information hub to support mutual learning and enhance decision‐makers' capacity to take up the project's recommendations;
NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology UK
University of Lisbon PT
Stockholm Environment Institute SE
Wageningen University NL
Danish Meteorological Institute DK
Finnish Environment Institute FI
University of Edinburgh UK
Dutch Research Institute for Transitions NL
Cranfield University UK


Collaborative project

Start date



60 months 

Project Coordinator

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK

Contact Point

Dr. Paula Harrison

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Lancaster Environment Centre 

Library Avenue, Bailrigg, Lancaster, LA1 4AP

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Project website

Last update:09 Sep 2016

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