Last updated:
April 12, 2024

Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP)

What is a Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP)?

Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) are narratives developed to explore potential future global developments that could affect society's ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change. SSPs complement Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) by providing context on how societal choices could impact greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation strategies, shaping the socioeconomic landscape that leads to various emission and concentration scenarios.

Understanding SSP Scenarios and Their Implications

The SSP framework includes five pathways ranging from SSP1, which envisions a sustainable future with low challenges to mitigation and adaptation, to SSP5, which assumes a fossil-fuelled growth trajectory with high emissions. Each SSP paints a different picture of future challenges:

  • SSP1 (Sustainability - Taking the Green Road): A world that steers toward sustainability, with strong efforts in reducing emissions and achieving development goals.
  • SSP2 (Middle of the Road): A scenario where historical patterns of development continue, with moderate progress towards sustainability.
  • SSP3 (Regional Rivalry - A Rocky Road): A divided world with heightened regional conflicts and slower economic growth, leading to significant adaptation and mitigation challenges.
  • SSP4 (Inequality - A Road Divided): Features a world of increasing inequality, where a wealthy minority progresses while a majority struggles with adaptation.
  • SSP5 (Fossil-fuelled Development - Taking the Highway): An economy-centric world that prioritises growth with high energy demand and GHG emissions.

Distinguishing SSPs from RCPs

While RCPs quantify greenhouse gas concentrations and their direct climate impacts, SSPs provide the underlying socioeconomic stories that give rise to these emissions levels. SSPs explore the human elements—economy, policy, technology, and demographics—that define how society might navigate the challenges of climate change, making them crucial for understanding the feasibility of achieving various RCPs.

SSPs' Role in Climate Change Mitigation and Policy

SSPs are integral to the work of the IPCC and initiatives like the SBTi as they describe what societal and economic changes are needed to make different mitigation targets and adaptation feasible. By understanding SSPs, businesses and governments can craft more nuanced targets that consider economic and social dynamics, ensuring that climate strategies are robust, equitable, and grounded in the realities of societal progress and challenges.

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