A multidimensional feasibility evaluation of low-carbon scenarios

Elina Brutschin*, Silvia Pianta, Massimo Tavoni, Keywan Riahi, Valentina Bosetti, Giacomo Marangoni, Bas J. Van Ruijven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long-term mitigation scenarios developed by integrated assessment models underpin major aspects of recent IPCC reports and have been critical to identify the system transformations that are required to meet stringent climate goals. However, they have been criticized for proposing pathways that may prove challenging to implement in the real world and for failing to capture the social and institutional challenges of the transition. There is a growing interest to assess the feasibility of these scenarios, but past research has mostly focused on theoretical considerations. This paper proposes a novel and versatile multidimensional framework that allows evaluating and comparing decarbonization pathways by systematically quantifying feasibility concerns across geophysical, technological, economic, socio-cultural and institutional dimensions. This framework enables to assess the timing, disruptiveness and scale of feasibility concerns, and to identify trade-offs across different feasibility dimensions. As a first implementation of the proposed framework, we map the feasibility concerns of the IPCC 1.5 C Special Report scenarios. We select 24 quantitative indicators and propose feasibility thresholds based on insights from an extensive analysis of the literature and empirical data. Our framework is, however, flexible and allows evaluations based on different thresholds or aggregation rules. Our analyses show that institutional constraints, which are often not accounted for in scenarios, are key drivers of feasibility concerns. Moreover, we identify a clear intertemporal trade-off, with early mitigation being more disruptive but preventing higher and persistent feasibility concerns produced by postponed mitigation action later in the century.

Original languageEnglish
Article number064069
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • climate change mitigation
  • energy transition
  • feasibility
  • integrated assessment models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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