In much of the literature the term is also synonymous with the term business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, although the term BAU has fallen out of favour because the idea of business as usual in century-long socio-economic projections is hard to fathom. In the context of transformation pathways, the term baseline scenarios refers to scenarios that are based on the assumption that no mitigation policies or measures will be implemented beyond those that are already in force and/or are legislated or planned to be adopted. Baseline scenarios are not intended to be predictions of the future, but rather counterfactual constructions that can serve to highlight the level of emissions that would occur without further policy effort.
Typically, baseline scenarios are then compared to mitigation scenarios that are constructed to meet different goals for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, atmospheric concentrations or temperature change. The term baseline scenario is often used interchangeably with reference scenario and no policy scenario.