Science and Policy Impacts

IIASA research has impact at all scales, from local to global, and within both scientific and policy spheres. IIASA models have shaped European air pollution policy, for instance, and redefined population growth projections. IIASA also hosts two key databases for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and has driven advances in systems analysis methods.

Below are some examples of the economic, social, and academic impacts of IIASA research.

Taking the pulse of global climate action

IIASA plays a leading role in shaping the annual Emission Gap Reports, launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2010. “UNEP GAP Reports” assess whether emissions pledges from countries during the international climate negotiations are on track to limit temperature increase to 2ºC or less this century. The reports appear each year to inform governments and the international policy community about the possible “gap” that needs to be closed in order for the world to follow a globally sustainable pathway toward wider objectives, such as the green economy. More

Air Pollution Control for a Healthier Environment

IIASA played a significant role in bringing under control the air pollutants that damage human health and the environment. The Regional Acidification INformation and Simulation (RAINS) model, developed at IIASA, was at the center of international environmental negotiations for a number of the earliest instruments to achieve cleaner air in Europe at lowest cost. More

Scenarios for IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

In 2007 the IPCC asked the scientific community to develop new scenarios for the Fifth Assessment Report to extend or replace those currently used. IIASA scientists contributed to developing two new sets of scenarios: the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs)—four pathways for emissions, concentrations, and radiative forcing; and the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs)—five possible paths human societies could follow over the next century. The RCP and SSP databases are hosted by IIASA. More

Financial Preparation for Natural Disasters

Natural disasters, particularly in developing countries, can cause devastating impacts that can swamp governments’ resilience to support the relief and reconstruction process. Through its catastrophe simulation (CATSIM) model, IIASA has helped many governments to identify their financial and economic resilience and design efficient and appropriate ex ante risk-management and -financing strategies putting governments into a position to proactively tackle the increasing burdens from natural disasters. More

Global Universal Energy Access

The Global Energy Assessment (GEA), coordinated by IIASA, provides the scientific basis for the 2012 global initiative, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), launched by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. Further, IIASA/GEA scientists developed analytical tools and policy options for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the largest public funder of projects to improve the global environment. GEA authors, many from IIASA, also provided substantive input to the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). More

Simultaneously Reducing Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases

IIASA launched the GAINS model in 2006 to explore the synergies and trade-offs between control of local and regional air pollution and mitigation of global greenhouse gases (GHGs). GAINS is used to analyze the future socioeconomic drivers of emissions, emission control options, the chemical transformation and dispersion of pollutants in the atmosphere, and ensuing human health and environmental impacts. More

Planning for Future Energy Needs

MESSAGE is a modeling framework for medium- to long-term energy system planning, energy policy analysis, and scenario development. It is the core of IIASA’s energy modeling and provides a flexible framework for the comprehensive assessment of major energy challenges. It has been applied extensively to developing scenarios for large global research programs, such as the latest three assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the 2012 Global Energy Assessment (GEA). More

Interdisciplinary Population Research

Population research is part of IIASA’s interdisciplinary setting and thus looks beyond the traditional bounds of demography to study and demonstrate how development of human capital helps to address social, economic, and environmental challenges. These interactions, which emphasize human capital formation, are among the most important challenges facing IIASA demographers today. More

Reducing Black Carbon Deposition in the Arctic Region

Arctic temperatures have risen over the last 40 years at twice the global average rate. In recent years concerns arose that the warming from short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs), like methane, tropospheric ozone, and especially black carbon, might be greater than  that of CO2. In 2009 the eight-member intergovernmental Arctic Council asked IIASA to investigate the effects of SLCFs in the Arctic using its Greenhouse gas – Air pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) model. More

Crowdsourcing and Gaming Reveal Land Cover

IIASA researchers have launched several initiatives to reduce uncertainties in the mapping of land cover, mobilizing partners in the national and international mapping communities to share data and products to develop an accurate cropland extent map for Africa—and globally—at minimal cost. IIASA is also now seeking the participation of citizen scientists in its mapping projects. More

Analyzing Fisheries-induced Evolution

In 1998 IIASA began researching fisheries-induced evolution in freshwater and marine environments. The aim of this research is i) to develop methodological tools to evaluate the evolutionary and ecological consequences of overfishing and ii) to use resulting insights to identify evolutionarily sustainable management strategies. More

Rational Land Use Planning

IIASA has developed an integrated modeling cluster that addresses the key topics of its Food and Water research area. The cluster is built around the Global Biosphere Management Model (GLOBIOM) which integrates the agricultural, bioenergy, and forestry sectors and draws on comprehensive socioeconomic and geospatial data. It is integrated with several other models developed by IIASA and partners. More

Programs for Young Scientists

IIASA’s Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) brings talented PhD students to Laxenburg, Austria, to work on independent research projects in collaboration with top researchers in their fields. The success of the three-month Laxenburg program spurred the foundation of the Southern African YSSP (SA-YSSP), held annually in the southern summer since 2012-2013 in South Africa. IIASA runs a thriving postdoctorate program of 12–24 months’ duration; it also conducts many capacity-building events and workshops for scientists and policymakers worldwide. More

Systems Analysis: Holistic Problem Solving

Advanced systems analysis at IIASA aims to help public and private decision makers resolve large-scale socio-technical problems in the short, medium, and long term. The problems IIASA tackles are immense, interconnected, persistent, and urgent. They affect human wellbeing and the environment on which we depend. They are of such complexity that to neglect a single aspect of them could be very costly—and not just in monetary terms. More

Adaptive Environmental Management

Options Magazine, Autumn 1978:  In 1975 a new research field, Adaptive Ecosystem Policy and Management, was founded at IIASA based on the results of a study relating forest conditions to pest propagation with implications for forest management policy across North America and Scandinavia.  More

40 Years' Research into Climate Change

Options Magazine, Winter 2006 - From Ice Age to Global Warming In the early 1970s warnings of global cooling appeared in the media, as some scientists concluded the Earth was gradually heading toward a new ice age. Yet, by the end of the decade, global warming was scientifically recognized as a major problem – IIASA research helped shift opinion toward "global warming."   More

Energy in a Finite World

Options Magazine, Issue 1, 1981:  The good news from IIASA’s large-scale  international study of the prospects of meeting global energy needs over the next 50 years is: “It could be done.” More

Increasing Returns

Options Magazine, Winter 2007: Groundbreaking research by an IIASA scholar in the 1980s pioneered a new approach in economics that helped the U.S. government take legal action against Microsoft. The research argues that small, random events could lead a technologically inferior product to dominate the market.  More

Sustainable Development

Options Magazine, September 1989: In the mid-1980s IIASA’s Environment Program turned its attention to studying the interactions between development and the environment.  More

Modeling Uncertainty

Options Magazine, Summer 1995: If you build a mathematical model to answer the question, “What is the cleanest energy technology?” a so-called deterministic model will typically yield the answer—for example—“solar power.” But without knowing the future, investing all research resources in solar power may represent too much risk. More

Carbon Accounting and the Kyoto Protocol

Options Magazine, Autumn 2000: Based on extensive research IIASA scientists concluded that only full carbon accounting (FCA), covering all carbon-related components of terrestrial ecosystems, can provide the accuracy needed to balance the carbon emissions —carbon savings budget.   More

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Last edited: 05 April 2016


Philippa Baumgartner

Communications Manager


Deputy Head

External Relations Communications and Library

T +43(0) 2236 807 319


Read other science and policy impacts in IIASA's Options Magazine

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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