U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



U.S. Climate Change Science Program
Synthesis and Assessment Product 2.1b


A scenario is a description of potential future conditions produced to inform decision-making under uncertainty. Scenarios can help inform decisions that involve high stakes and poorly characterized uncertainty, which may thwart other, conventional forms of analysis or decision support. Originally developed to study military and security problems, scenarios are now widely used for strategic planning and assessment in businesses and other organizations, and increasingly to inform planning, analysis, and decision-making for environmental issues, including climate change.
Scenarios can serve many purposes. They can help inform specific decisions, or can provide inputs to assessments, models, or other decision-support activities when these activities need specification of potential future conditions. They can also provide various forms of indirect decision support, such as clarifying an issue’s importance, framing a decision agenda, shaking up habitual thinking, stimulating creativity, clarifying points of agreement and disagreement, identifying and engaging needed participants, or providing a structure for analysis of potential future decisions.