Enabling Politically Sensitive Climate Change Impact Assessments for the 21st Century (POLIMPACT)

Led by Halvard Buhaug

Oct 2022 – Oct 2027

From the collection 'France in XXI Century' by Jean-Marc Côte. Made in 1899. Photo: Public Domain
POLIMPACT seeks to develop alternative qualitative and quantitative scenarios for governance, conflict, and economic development over the 21st century and explore implications for climate change impacts.

Accurately describing the world of the future is difficult. In 1899, Jean-Marc Côté was commissioned to create postcards imagining what the future would look like in year 2000. The drawings gained renewed interest after Isaac Asimov published the book Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000 in 1986, commenting on Côté’s predictions. The pictures are highly imaginative, conjuring images of new technologies, new possibilities from technology, and outlining how society might deal with future challenges. Populating the ocean was perhaps seen as a solution to support a growing population and the Malthusian threat. Yet, the visionary worlds depicted in these images probably remain more familiar to a Parisian of 1899 than they are to anyone living in the world of today.

POLIMPACT seeks to develop qualitative narratives and quantitative projections of governance, conflict, and economic development over the course of the 21st century. Unlike Côté’s drawings, these projections are not intended to be forecasts in a probabilistic sense or attempts to describe a most likely future. Rather, they represent alternative plausible but stylized trajectories of political development that can be used to assess, inter alia, the benefits of peacebuilding and transparent, just, and inclusive political institutions (i.e., SDG 16) for societies’ ability to cope with climate change impacts.

The political development projections will build on and extend the so-called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), which are widely used in combination with different global warming projections (RCPs) to conduct integrated analysis of emissions and societal change. The SSPs provide five alternative storylines for how societies may develop over the 21st century, defined by different assumptions about challenges to climate change adaptation and mitigation. While the original SSP projections are good starting points for imagining possible futures, they focus primarily on demographic and socioeconomic factors. As we discuss elsewhere, the absence of explicit modeling of political development (e.g., institutions and peace) remains a limitation to the SSPs since we know that political factors directly and indirectly (via, e.g., influencing economic performance) affect vulnerability to climate change. This is where POLIMPACT comes in.

POLIMPACT will develop a quantitative simulation system for producing and analyzing endogenous, simultaneous end-of-century projections of political institutions, armed conflict, and economic growth, guided by qualitative political narratives to ensure that projections remain consistent with the defining characteristics of each SSP pathway. In a subsequent step, we will explore how impacts of climate change (e.g., in terms of poverty or undernutrition) will depend not only on the rate of global warming and extent of socioeconomic growth but also on the extent to which the world becomes more (or less) peaceful and democratic than it is today.

The project is funded by an ERC Advanced Grant.

An error has occurred. This application may no longer respond until reloaded. An unhandled exception has occurred. See browser dev tools for details. Reload 🗙