This paper discusses the role and relevance of the shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs) and the new scenarios that combine SSPs with representative concentration pathways (RCPs) for climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability (IAV) research. It first provides an overview of uses of social-environmental scenarios in IAV studies and identifies the main shortcomings of earlier such scenarios. Second, the paper elaborates on two aspects of the SSPs and new scenarios that would improve their usefulness for IAV studies compared to earlier scenario sets: (i) enhancing their applicability while retaining coherence across spatial scales, and (ii) adding indicators of importance for projecting vulnerability. The paper therefore presents an agenda for future research, recommending that SSPs incorporate not only the standard variables of population and gross domestic product, but also indicators such as income distribution, spatial population, human health and governance. © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013.