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Socio-Economic Data and Scenarios

Welcome to the Socio-economic section of the Data Distribution Centre (DDC) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These pages of the DDC provide access to baseline and scenario data related to population, economic development, technology and natural resources for use in climate impact assessments. This information, along with environmental data and scenarios also held by the DDC, is important for characterizing the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of social and economic systems in relation to climate change in different regions. For many exposed systems, the impacts of climate change could be strongly moderated by future socio-economic and technological developments, so these need to be taken into account in any assessment.

Why do we need socio-economic scenarios?

The main purposes of socio-economic scenarios in the assessment of climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability are:

  • to characterise the demographic, socio-economic and technological driving forces underlying anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change; and
  • to characterise the sensitivity, adaptive capacity and vulnerability of social and economic systems in relation to climate change (Carter et al., 2001).

Though greater emphasis in these guidelines is placed on the second objective, the DDC socio-economic pages provide information supporting both, recognising that the scenarios underpinning impact and adaptation studies should also be consistent with those assumed for emissions and hence for climate and for other environmental scenarios. Many key parameters such as population and economic growth are common to both types of exercise.

The major underlying cause of rapid changes in atmospheric composition is human economic activity, in particular emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and changing land cover and land use. Socio-economic scenarios that project the major driving factors of change are important for several reasons:

  • They improve our understanding of the key relationships among factors that drive future emissions.
  • They provide a realistic range of future emissions of net greenhouse gas and aerosol precursors, which can be converted to atmospheric concentrations and associated radiative forcing of the atmosphere, which is required in estimating future climate change.
  • They assist in assessing the relative importance of relevant trace gases and aerosol precursors in changing atmospheric composition and hence climate.
  • They offer a consistent framework of projections (albeit at a global or aggregate regional scale) that can be applied in climate change impact assessments.

The IPCC Data Distribution Centre holds socio-economic information describing the present-day situation and information relating to two sets of emissions scenarios: the IS92 scenarios, prepared for the IPCC Second Assessment Report, and the SRES scenarios (Special Report on Emissions Scenarios - Nakicenovic et al., 2000) prepared for the Third Assessment Report. These have a projection period out to 2100 (see below).

Socio-economic baseline statistics on the DDC

The IPCC has published a set of baseline statistics for 195 countries that are representative of the early to mid 1990s. The data were collated from a variety of sources, such as the World Bank, UNEP and FAO, and they comprise a range of factors organised into seven categories (IPCC, 1998):

  • Population and human development: total population, current and projected (2025) population density, total urban population, urban population in coastal cities.
  • Economic Conditions: GDP per capita, GDP from agriculture, from industry and from services, GDP annual growth rate.
  • Land cover/land use: total land area, arable and permanent cropland, permanent pasture, forest and woodland, other land.
  • Water: water resources per capita, annual withdrawals for domestic, industrial and agricultural use.
  • Agriculture/food: irrigated land, agricultural labour force, total labour force, stocks of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, equines, buffalo and camels.
  • Energy: total commercial energy consumption, traditional fuel consumption, commercial hydroelectric consumption.
  • Biodiversity: known and endemic mammal, bird and plant species.

These tabulated data are also available from the Data Distribution Centre. Clearly these are only selected, summary data and individual impact studies are likely to require information on other factors or at a higher spatial resolution. The original sources of the IPCC dataset may be able to provide additional country-level information. Otherwise, national or regional sources of data will need to be accessed.

Current holdings are:

Content last modified:29 November 2023