Reports 2018/02

Global surroundings of Norway’s climate strategies

Significant and plausible futures

This report describes the approach and results of a scenario workshop for a transdisciplinary team of 18 experts held in the project SMART PATHS in June 2017.

The purpose was to span out a handful of alternative qualitative scenarios for the forthcoming global development. The specified question that the scenarios set out to shed light on is: what future external drivers are particularly decisive for the design and performance of national climate strategies in the period of 2020-2050? The work resulted in four, internally consistent, qualitative narratives of the global social, economic, technological, and political future and, in particular, of what they would mean for the external surroundings of the small, open Norwegian economy and its climate strategy Ahead.

The scenarios will be exploited in the remaining work of the research project SMART PATHS as a basis for quantitative global scenarios, which as a next step will be used to simulate how robust Norwegian climate strategies will be to variation in external impulses. Notwithstanding, the results from the workshop, summed up in this report, are useful in their own right for researchers and stakeholders studying the low-emission transformation. In a logical way, they span out a set of potential future worlds based on qualitatively different, equally plausible, outcomes of a few uncertain driving forces.

The explorative scenario approach was based on the Probabilistic Modified Trends methodology (Amer, 2013; van der Heijden, 2005; Stoknes and Hermansen, 2004). It consists of three main working stages: (i) identifying driving forces for global changes ahead, (ii) discussing and assessing their uncertainty and impact, and (iii) systemising the driving forces into a few selected scenarios.

During stage (i) around 60 proposed driving forces were collected, clustered and selected by the participants into 11 distinct factors assessed as the most significant and decisive. These included the strictness of a global climate treaty and of EU’s policies, the development of different technologies, the incidence of extreme weather events, energy demand, norms and preferences and the role of cities as political agents.

Stage (ii) of assessing the drivers was performed in groups of 3-4 persons. The work involved judging how the driver was expected to develop and the degree of certainty of the outcome. The drivers with a low uncertainty are assumed to affect any future. The drivers with a high uncertainty and high impact, however, are considered critical or key drivers. They can take the future in very different directions. The assessment ranking resulted in these three drivers being critical, with fairly equal impact and uncertainty: the strictness of a global climate treaty, oil demand and norms and preferences. Their internal correlation implies that four scenarios materialise.

The last step (iii) of the workshop was to “visit” these four scenarios, and describe the demographic, economic, political and technological aspects of these possible futures over time. The workshop described the following scenarios: Scenario A (SPLIT!) is characterised by a still sustained high demand for oil and other fossil fuels in the less developed world, while rapid evolvement of green norms and preferences takes place in the developed part of the world, including Norway. This is facilitated by compliant and ambitious treaties among the richer countries. The clue is that we get a split world with increasing tension between the regions.

Scenario B (CLEAN!) resembles many of the existing scenario analyses of a successful transformation to a 2˚C world. It shows the coincidence of a rapid global shift to green norms and preferences, significantly lower oil demand, and a compliant and ambitious climate agreement. Coordinated efforts worldwide alleviate the transformation process for Norway. Scenario C (DARK!) has the opposite characteristics. National security and near-term interests split the world, increase internal conflicts and result in severe climate change and expensive climate policies. Last, the occurrence of low oil demand despite only slow and insignificant changes in norms and preferences constitutes Scenario D (RICH!). The reduction of fossil fuels use is driven by renewable energy technologies breaking though and become highly competitive. The prosperity of the world is high, but unevenly distributed. The temperature rise is moderate.

About the publication


Significant and plausible futures. Global surroundings of Norway’s climate strategies


Taran Fæhn and Per Espen Stoknes

Series and number

Reports 2018/02


Statistisk sentralbyrå


Business cycles , Pollution and climate

ISBN (online)


ISBN (printed)




Number of pages


About Reports

Analyses and annotated statistical results from various surveys are published in the series Reports. Surveys include sample surveys, censuses and register-based surveys.