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Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) Database (v 2.0)


The RCP database aims at documenting the emissions, concentrations, and land-cover change projections of the so-called "Representative Concentration Pathways" (RCPs). The RCPs are meant to serve as input for climate and atmospheric chemistry modeling as part of the preparatory phase for the development of new scenarios for the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report and beyond. Further documentation can be found in the IPCC Expert Meeting Report on New Scenarios (Noordwijkerhout report) and the "Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) Draft Handshake".
The RCPs are not new, fully integrated scenarios (i.e., they are not a complete package of socioeconomic, emissions, and climate projections). They are consistent sets of projections of only the components of radiative forcing that are meant to serve as input for climate modeling, pattern scaling, and atmospheric chemistry modeling. As such, they jump-start the scenario development across research communities from which uncertainties about socioeconomic, climate, and impact futures can be explored. They thus constitute just the beginning of the parallel process of developing new scenarios for the IPCC's fifth Assessment Report. By doing so, the RCPs aim at providing a consistent analytical thread across communities.
The RCPs are named according to their 2100 radiative forcing level as reported by the individual modeling teams. The radiative forcing estimates are based on the forcing of greenhouse gases and other forcing agents - but does not include direct impacts of land use (albedo) or the forcing of mineral dust.
The RCPs are not forecasts or boundaries for potential emissions, land-use, or climate change. They are also not policy prescriptive in that they were chosen for scientific purposes to represent the span of the radiative forcing literature at the time of their selection and thus facilitate the mapping of a broad climate space. They therefore do not represent specific futures with respect to climate policy action (or no action) or technological, economic, or political viability of specific future pathways or climates.
The RCPs are four independent pathways developed by four individual modeling groups. The socioeconomics underlying each RCP are not unique; and, the RCPs are not a set or representative of the range of potential assumptions. For instance, the RCPs with lower radiative forcing (RCP 6.0, RCP 4.5 and RCP 2.6) are not derived from those with higher radiative forcing (RCP 8.5, or even RCP 6.0). The differences between the RCPs can therefore not directly be interpreted as a result of climate policy or particular socioeconomic developments. Any differences can be attributed in part to differences between models and scenario assumptions (scientific, economic, and technological).

Reference information

IPCC Data Distribution Center http://sedac.ipcc-data.org/ddc/ar5_scenario_process/RCPs.html  

Published in Climate-ADAPT Jul 20 2016   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Dec 12 2023

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