All Episodes

[Episode #176] – Climate Scenarios vs. Reality

Why do so many decarbonization scenarios rely on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) to play a major role in the world's energy transition portfolio when it really doesn’t even exist as a commercial technology? Why does the IPCC's climate mitigation strategy model countries as if they would implement the same policy for carbon pricing across all sectors, when we know that’s just not how the world operates? Why do models dodge attempts to reflect the fragmented, irrational, and irregular way that the world actually works, when we know for a fact that the transition is going to be a bumpy ride into a hazy future?

If globally coordinated carbon pricing never materializes, and CCS never has a real market opportunity as our integrated assessment models assume, where will that leave us in developing meaningful policies and taking action on climate change? And why aren’t other people asking this vital question?

In this episode, Dr. Ida Sognnaes, a Senior Researcher at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research, explains how the integrated assessment models (IAMs) used in IPCC reports are constructed, what assumptions modelers make, and how the very design of IAMs can bias them toward certain outcomes—including the role of CCS as a climate mitigation strategy. She also offers further evidence that the world is currently on a trajectory for between 2 and 3 degrees of warming by the end of the century, and shares her perspective on why the climate modeling community has been so reluctant to just say that plainly.


Dr. Ida Sognnaes is a Senior Researcher at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway. She got her PhD from the University of Cambridge (2020) on uncertainty and robustness of Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) scenarios and biases in IPCC scenario ensembles. Her current research interests include the use of IAMs and scenario ensembles to obtain scientific insights and to inform climate policy, the understanding of and use of emissions scenarios by decision makers – including for policy making and financial stress testing – and the impacts of key assumptions. She is also interested in the economics of climate change and the low-carbon transition and in science policy more generally. Sognnaes has a broad interdisciplinary background, with a PhD in Land Economy (Cambridge, UK), an MSc in Energy and Resources (UC Berkeley, USA) an MSc in Mathematics and Physics (NTNU, Norway), and a BSc in Political Science (NTNU, Norway).

On Twitter: @idasogn

On the Web:  Ida’s page at CICERO | Ida’s page at Research Gate

Recording date: May 23, 2022

Air date: July 6, 2022

Geek rating: 8