Pedersen, J.S.T., van Vuuren, D.P., Aparício, B.A., Swart, R., Gupta, J. & Santos, F.D. (2020) Variability in historical emissions trends suggests a need for a wide range of global scenarios and regional analyses. Communications Earth & Environment, 1(41), 1-7. DOI:10.1038/s43247-020-00045-y.
Long-term developments in carbon dioxide emissions have tracked the middle of projected emission scenario ranges over the past three decades. If this tendency continues, it seems increasingly less likely that future emissions will follow current high-emission scenarios. However, in the past, periods of slow and fast global emissions growth was observed, which have led to previous critiques of scenarios being too low or too high. In the light of such unpredictability and since scenarios are meant to explore plausible futures, we here argue that a broad range of emission scenarios continue to be considered input in scenario-based analyses of future climate change. Furthermore, we find substantial regional differences in emissions trends. Territorial emissions in OECD countries fall on the low side of emission scenario ranges, whereas non-OECD territorial emissions fell closer to the medium or high-end. Since non-OECD emissions will become increasingly important, we recommend further exploring the relationships between regional and global emissions to support scenario assumptions and climate policymaking.