The wide spread of projected temperature changes in climate projections does not predominately originate from uncertainty across climate models; instead it is the broad range of different global socio-economic scenarios and the implied energy production that results in high uncertainty about future climate change. It is therefore important to assess the observational tracking of these scenarios. Here we compare these socio-economic scenarios created in both 1992 and 2000 against the recent observational record to investigate the coupling of economic growth and fossil-fuel CO2 emissions. We find that global emission intensity (fossil fuel CO2emissions per GDP) rose in the first part of the 21st century despite all major climate projections foreseeing a decline. Proposing a method to disaggregate differences between scenarios and observations in global growth rates to country-by-country contributions, we find that the relative discrepancy was driven by unanticipated GDP growth in Asia and Eastern Europe, in particular in Russia and China. The growth of emission intensity over the 2000s highlights the relevance of unforeseen local shifts in projections on a global scale.


Pretis, F. and Roser, M. (2017). `Carbon dioxide emission-intensity in climate projections: Comparing the observational record to socio-economic scenarios’. Energy, 135, 718-725.
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