Process-based integrated assessment models (IAMs) project long-term transformation pathways in energy and land-use systems under what-if assumptions. IAM evaluation is necessary to improve the models’ usefulness as scientific tools applicable in the complex and contested domain of climate change mitigation. We contribute the first comprehensive synthesis of process-based IAM evaluation research, drawing on a wide range of examples across six different evaluation methods including historical simulations, stylised facts, and model diagnostics. For each evaluation method, we identify progress and milestones to date, and draw out lessons learnt as well as challenges remaining. We find that each evaluation method has distinctive strengths, as well as constraints on its application. We use these insights to propose a systematic evaluation framework combining multiple methods to establish the appropriateness, interpretability, credibility, and relevance of process-based IAMs as useful scientific tools for informing climate policy. We also set out a programme of evaluation research to be mainstreamed both within and outside the IAM community.

Wilson, C., Guivarch, C., Kriegler, E. et al. Evaluating process-based integrated assessment models of climate change mitigation. Climatic Change 166, 3 (2021).

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