Three ways the UK-SSPs project will help UK climate resilience research

Project Manager Jennifer Dicks shares three ways the UK Shared Socioeconomic Pathways project can help the climate resilience research community here in the UK.

As we approach the end of our UK-SSPs project, we are bringing together the outputs of the project on the UK Climate Resilience Programme website. These outputs will provide the climate resilience research community with a holistic set of products to help answer key questions about the UK’s resilience to climate change. Shared socioeconomic pathways or ‘SSPs’, as we wrote in our first blog, can help inform what impact our society and economy might have on the potential for curbing emissions and climate change in future.

“The core principle behind the different storylines, described through five SSPs , is that visions of the future (i.e. scenarios) can diverge in many ways. COVID-19, and the associated lockdowns of society, is a clear example of the high degree of uncertainty in socioeconomic development pathways.”

This highlights the importance of considering divergent paths for economic outcomes, and how these different pathways lead to economies and populations that are more or less resilient to climate change impacts.

Products of the UK-SSPs

Here are three key products from the UK-SSPs project that will help the climate change resilience research community.

  1. Narratives or storylines for all five SSPs for the UK and its countries

The UK-SSP storylines have been downscaled and extended from IPCC community global SSPs, providing the UK research community with scenarios that are consistent with the IPCC process. This will ensure that subsequent research into UK climate risk and resilience, including that in the 4th Climate Change Risk Assessment, is fully compatible with the IPCC 6th Assessment Report and future IPCC assessments. Written narratives will be available, as well as animated videos describing the storylines.

  1. A visual illustration of the relationships or interactions between different socioeconomic drivers for each SSP

The UK-SSPs project adopted a whole system approach, whereby we worked with a variety of stakeholders through numerous workshops to develop the narratives and identify key socioeconomic drivers. A key output of these processes was the identification of the socioeconomic system within each scenario. A second major product of the project is a visual and interactive illustration of the interactions or relationships between different socioeconomic drivers for each SSP. These visualisations will be available online and will allow the user to easy navigate the socioeconomic system, to explore socioeconomic drivers (and data) within each scenario, and understand how drivers are linked to one another.

  1. Detailed quantified projections for specific socioeconomic indicators accompany the SSP narratives

These projections have been produced at the appropriate temporal and spatial resolution (ranging from a 1km grid to local authority areas to countries) depending on user needs (which were identified through stakeholder workshops). As well as detailed projections for the most important socioeconomic indicators, the project has also produced semi-quantitative trends for 50 socioeconomic variables.

View the product outputs from the UK-SSPs project (please note, some are still under development at this time).

Interdisciplinary research

Combined, these products will provide the research community with new and innovative perspectives on the potential future shape of UK society and its economy. Our interdisciplinary research has led to both qualitative and quantitative products which provide a consistent starting point for analyses of the climate risks facing the UK and each of its nations. The project acknowledges that the economy and society can diverge quite substantially from historical trends, and it is the storylines behind those divergences which these products seek to explain and quantify.


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