Scenario research: Innovative contributions by DIE

Integrated scenario research is a core element of global climate and environmental change research. Researchers at DIE make important contributions to the further development of this research field.

What would the world look like if an ambitious climate policy and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are globally pushed forward? Contrasting, what if the international state community continuously stays on a development path that relies on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources? Interdisciplinary scenario research deals with these questions as a key element of global climate and environmental change research. Future scenarios help us understand how elusive processes such as climate change develop and influence societies and the earth system on a global and long-term scale. Political decision-makers and the general public use this knowledge frequently – for example via the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Researchers at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) work closely together with international colleagues and make important contributions to the further development of this research field. In a joint paper, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change in 2020, leading scenario researchers inter alia from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and DIE outline the current state and development potentials of scenario research. It is now particularly relevant to better integrate the socio-political dynamics such as conflict or political institutions into scenarios. In addition, the scenarios created at the global level are to be transferred to the regional and local level.

The basis for modeling a sustainable future in the sense of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (SDG17) created a second joint paper that was recently published in 2022 in the journal One Earth. For this, researchers from DIE worked together with colleagues from the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and IIASA to define target indicators for modeling.

The actual modeling of a Sustainable Development Pathway with an additional sustainable development package is presented by researchers from DIE together with colleagues from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main in a paper published in August 2021 in Nature Climate Change. With this development pathway, a strategy is outlined on how ambitious climate targets and a simultaneous implementation of the SDGs can be achieved. Interactions and synergies between the different targets are a key element in this context. In addition to an ambitious climate policy, the model considers interventions such as international climate finance and a progressive redistribution of carbon pricing revenues as contributions to global justice and poverty. Researchers from DIE contributed substantially with an analysis and modeling of political institutions and violent conflict along this sustainable development pathway until 2050.

Researchers at DIE will continue to work on this central research field. In this context, especially the integration of social science factors into scenario research will be further pursued. For this, DIE plans to further deepen its cooperation with partner institutions. The research project SHAPE further develops and analyses Sustainable Development Pathways that are aimed to link the implementation of the SDGs with ambitious climate policies.


O’Neill, B.C., Carter, T.R., Ebi, K. et al. 2020. „Achievements and needs for the climate change scenario framework,” Nature Climate Change 10 (12): 1074-1084. URL:

Soergel, B., Kriegler, E., Weindl, I. et al. 2021. „A sustainable development pathway for climate action within the UN 2030 Agenda,” Nature Climate Change 11 (8): 656-664. URL:

van Vuuren, D., Zimm, C., Busch, S. et al. 2022. „Defining a sustainable development target space for 2030 and 2050,” One Earth 5 (in press). URL:

Scientific contact persons at DIE

Dr. Julia Leininger

Christopher Wingens

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