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ABSTRACT: Scenarios of future socioeconomic development are key tools in analyses of environmental change. Often qualitative narratives, or storylines, are used to describe general development trends in such scenarios. Fundamental challenges in scenario development and use include identifying a small set of compelling storylines that span a broad range of policy-relevant futures, documenting that the assumptions embodied in the storylines are internally consistent, and ensuring that the selected storylines are sufficiently comprehensive – that is, that descriptions of important types of future developments are not left out. The dominant approach to scenario design for environmental change research has been criticized for lacking sufficient means of ensuring that storylines are internally consistent and sufficiently comprehensive. A consequence of these shortcomings could be an artificial constraint on the range of plausible futures considered. This presentation summarizes studies utilizing a more systematic technique for storylines called the cross-impact balance (CIB) method. CIB analysis scores scenarios in terms of internal consistency. It can also construct very large numbers of scenarios consisting of combinations of assumptions about individual scenario elements and rank these combinations in terms of internal consistency. The CIB method has been applied to assess the internal consistency of the SRES scenarios, to structure the development of new socioeconomic scenarios (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, or SSPs) conceptualized at the globally aggregated level, and ongoing work may be relevant for improving the internal consistency of nested scenarios developed at more localized scales that aim to be consistent with SSPs.
BIOGRAPHY: Vanessa Schweizer is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the Advanced Study Program. Her work has contributed directly to the process for new socioeconomic scenarios for climate change research or Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). She has a PhD in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University as well as a Masters in Environmental Studies from The Evergreen State College. She has held appointments with the Office of Systems, Analyses and Planning at the National Energy Technology Laboratory; the Interdisciplinary Research Unit on Risk Governance and Sustainable Technology Development at the University of Stuttgart; and the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change at The National Academies. Dr. Schweizer also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Nevada in Reno.