Quotation Foster, Gillian Joanne. 2020. Concrete utopianism in integrated assessment models: Discovering the philosophy of the shared socioeconomic pathways. Energy Research & Social Science. 68 (10153), 1-13.




The Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) are at the forefront of climate change science today. As an influential methodology and method, the SSPs guide the framing of numerous climate change research questions and how these are investigated. Although the SSPs were developed by an interdisciplinary group of scientists in a well-documented process, there is no apparent consensus in the literature that answers the question, “What is the philosophy of science behind the SSPs?” To investigate, the paper applies a systematic thematic qualitative content analysis to the dataset of published papers that establish the rules and expectations for using the SSPs. The research determines that there is no obvious and concise statement on the epistemological and ontological foundation of the SSPs. However, based on the evidence identified in the dataset, SSPs are implicitly, though not explicitly, consistent with a critical realist and concrete utopian philosophy as coined by Roy Bhaskar. This is the first paper to discuss the philosophical underpinning of the SSPs.


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  • Climate change science
  • Shared socioeconomic pathways
  • Critical realism
  • Philosophy of science

Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Energy Research & Social Science
Citation Index SSCI
WU-Journal-Rating new VW-C
Language English
Title Concrete utopianism in integrated assessment models: Discovering the philosophy of the shared socioeconomic pathways
Volume 68
Number 10153
Year 2020
Page from 1
Page to 13
Reviewed? Y
URL https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629620301109
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2020.101533
Open Access Y
Open Access Link https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629620301109


Foster, Gillian Joanne (Former researcher)
Institute for Ecological Economics IN (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
2919 Energy research (Details)
2959 Sustainable development, sustainable economics (Details)
4118 Renewable energy (also energy sources, raw materials) (Details)
4119 Regenerable raw materials (Details)
4924 Sustainable development, sustainable economics (Details)
5368 Sustainable development, sustainable economics (Details)
5912 Social sciences (interdisciplinary) (Details)
5914 Environmental research (Details)
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