Discussions on a long-term global goal to limit climate change, in the form of an upper limit to warming, were only partially resolved at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Paris, 2015. Such a political agreement must be informed by scientific knowledge. One way to communicate the costs and benefits of policies is through a mapping that systematically explores the consequences of different choices. Such a multi-disciplinary effort based on the analysis of a set of scenarios helped structure the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report. This Perspective summarizes this approach, reviews its strengths and limitations, and discusses how decision-makers can use its results in practice. It also identifies research needs that can facilitate integrated analysis of climate change and help better inform policy-makers and the public.