Research Aim 5

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Exploring Options for New Zealand Under Different Global Climates

Decisionmakers need to be capable of thinking about future climate change, no matter how uncertain it might be. We call such capability “futures literacy” or understanding linkages, feedbacks and hierarchies across and within different systems. For example, local water availability and drought impact depend critically on international demand for our agricultural products, which is in turn influenced by global population growth and affluence, agricultural productivity and the impacts of climate change. We will research how best to improve futures literacy including production of a first-ever set of comprehensive, integrated, long-term scenarios for New Zealand that explore options at critical time steps to 2100. Similar to global climate change scenarios, the scenarios will serve as a reference for other studies and its data as input to related scenario explorations. We will also research the novel use of social media (e.g., Facebook, webinars, on-line interactive games) to enhance overall futures literacy.

Leadership of Research Aim 5:

Primary Support:

Useful Resources:

We provide:

  • A socio-economic scenario architecture to 2100 that links global, national and local modelling of climate change and its impacts and implications with a range of key quantitative and qualitative indicators.
  • This combines various feasible global responses to climate change with national climate policy and non-climate policy dimensions.

We observe that development of meaningful scenarios must:

  • Enable understanding about the extent to which global, national and local-scale societal developments can influence the nature and severity of climate change risks.
  • Involve researchers across many disciplines; stakeholders with an interest in long-term impacts and implications; and policy-makers who take the long-view.
  • Be credible, salient and legitimate but not necessarily downscaled from global models.


Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) describe future global socioeconomic conditions including emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). They outline plausible alternative states of human and natural societies at a macro scale including both narrative and quantitative elements of socio-ecological systems such as demographic, political, social, cultural, institutional, lifestyle, economic and technological variables and trends. They also include the human impacts on ecosystems and ecosystem services such as air and water quality and biodiversity. The global SSPs are defined for global scales and lack the detail critical for understanding climate change risks at national and local scales. In RA5 we describe development of national-scale socio-economic scenarios for New Zealand, nested within SSPs, to inform national and localscale studies of climate change impacts and implications.

Shared climate Policy Assumptions (SPAs) describe potential climate change mitigation and/or adaptation policies specific to New Zealand, which enable New Zealand-specific futures to diverge from (accelerate, slow down or even counteract) the trends that are assumed in global-scale SSPs. The SPAs capture key climate policy dimensions not specified in the SSPs and provide a means to employ common assumptions across studies. Shared-climate Policy Assumptions for New Zealand (SPANZ) were developed to illustrate how approaches to both mitigation and to adaptation will impact the future (Table 1 on page 9 of  the full report).

We discuss the challenges that result from these choices in the development of national-scale socioeconomic scenarios for impacts; adaptation and vulnerability research, and demonstrate their utility and limitations in a local-scale case study (Table 2 on page 11 of the full report).

A set of quantitative and qualitative indicators have been identified for each scenario with sources from the project and more widely (Table 3 on page 15 of the full report).

Click here to download a full copy of the RA5 Synthesis report.

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