Risk Management and Adaptation

This thematic research area focuses on developing policy-relevant methodological insight for informing risk management and adaptation strategies; the aim of which is to support the multi-scale integration of agendas on risk management, climate change adaptation and sustainable socio-economic development.

© Iryna Rasko | Dreamstime

© Iryna Rasko | Dreamstime

Societies have developed many formal and informal ways to absorb, reduce, share and transfer risks, ranging from risk reduction and preparedness to risk financing and acceptance. These risk management systems encompass potentially conflicting values and aims, such as risk reduction versus risk taking, solidarity with the victims, affordability by the most vulnerable, and the fair distribution of public and private liability. Following the successful adoption in 2015 of several pioneering international agreements - the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals and UNFCCC's Paris Agreement - the challenge for the development, disaster and climate adaptation research communities is to support the design and implementation of comprehensive risk management policies. This should take account of plural views, evaluating policies efficiency and fairness implications. At the same these efforts should foster society’s ability to both anticipate and cope with the adverse impact of shocks, and support transitions to a more sustainable and resilient future.

Key foci of the RISK program under this thematic area are:

  • Understanding disaster resilience by developing and applying novel methodologies to assess risks and the capacity to cope with risks arising in socio-economic-ecological systems, and linking agendas on sustainable development, disaster risk management, and climate change adaptation; 
  • Supporting the development and implementation of  comprehensive climate risk management strategies that jointly consider efficiency, effectiveness, equity, and acceptability aspects;
  • Identifying innovative risk pooling and sharing strategies with an emphasis on safety nets for the most vulnerable, and providing incentives for reducing disaster impacts;
  • Assessing the scope and scale of risks 'beyond adaptation' and informing debate on options for the Loss and Damage mechanism.

Our interdisciplinary projects are generally placed at the interface of science and policy, involving the implementation of stakeholder processes, analyzing reform options for risk management policy, advising sovereign states and other stakeholders on risk management options, and participating in international forums. Our team increasingly engages in trans-boundary action research involving communities, governments and non-governmental organizations, where we collaborate in order to facilitate improved decision-making under risk and uncertainty.

Associated Projects

The research feeds into the following projects: 


Loss and Damage (L&D) has gained traction since it became apparent that climate change would lead to impacts that cannot, or will not, be tackled by mitigation or adaptation. While current research mainly focuses on L&D in the Global South, our objective is to provide policy-relevant scientific insights from the perspective of Austria, a Global North country. More


Adapting to increasing climate-related risks requires an evaluation of the decision points and pathways leading to or emerging from these decisions. The Pathways project analyses the key drivers and developments that influence these past and future dynamics. More

Loss and Damage

The Systemic Risk and Resilience (SYRR) Group and the Equity and Justice (EQU) Group contribute to resolving the debate on how to formulate and shape the Loss and Damage Mechanism, which was agreed at the Warsaw Climate Change Conference in 2013. More

Flood Resilience

IIASA is a core member of the Flood Resilience Alliance, an innovative partnership between research, development and humanitarian NGOs and the private sector that works together for making at step change with regard to policy, finance and practice of managing floods and other climate-related hazards towards increased community resilience. More


EconTrans takes an innovative integrated approach to address challenges that are deeply interlinked: reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and coping with fundamental transformations triggered by disruptive technologies. The spatial focus of EconTrans is on Austria, while its emissions perspective and policy embedding is globally consistent. More

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Last edited: 10 October 2019


Thomas Schinko

Research Group Leader and Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313