The recently developed Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) have enabled researchers
to explore coupled human–nature dynamics in new and more complex ways. Despite their wide applicability and unquestionable advantage over earlier scenarios, the utility of the SSPs for conducting societal impact assessments is impaired by shortcomings in the underlying economic growth projections. In particular, the assumed economic convergence and absence of major growth disruptions break with historical growth trajectories in the developing world. The consequence is that the SSP portfolio becomes too narrow, with an overly optimistic lower band of growth projections. This is not a trivial concern, since resulting impact assessments are likely to underestimate the full human and material costs of climate change, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable societies. In response, we propose that future quantifications of the SSPs should incorporate the likelihood of growth disruptions, informed by scenarios of the relevant political contexts that historically have been important in curbing growth.