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: Flood Resilience, FARM, Loss and Damage, GAME, Enhance, CD LINKS, Econadapt, Arise and Pacinas.

Public Adaptation Costs: Investigating the National Adaptation Strategy in Austria (PACINAS)

The PACINAS project deals with potential (planned) public adaptation and associated costs, benefits, and challenges with respect to implementing the National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) in Austria More

Loss and Damage

The Risk and Resilience (RISK) Program contributes 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

Simulation Games as New Methods for Understanding Stakeholder Interaction and Decision-Making in Complex Systems

A research project which uses social simulation as a new method to examine stakeholder cognition and interaction, and explores how gaming-based empirical observations may be used in quantitative analysis. More

Flood Resilience

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Zurich Insurance Group have established a collaboration alliance to launch a new project on Community flood resilience. More


Over the past 15 years unusually hot and dry summers have highlighted the financial vulnerability of European farmers beyond the arid regions of the Mediterranean. European policy makers have responded to increased agricultural production risk by providing premium subsidies from the community’s budget; these act as a risk-management instrument by decreasing the region’s reliance on ad hoc disaster relief. More

ENHANCE - Improving the resilience of society to catastrophic natural hazards through new risk-management partnerships

Improving the resilience of society to catastrophic natural hazards through new risk-management partnerships More

Economics of Climate Change Adaptation in Europe (ECONADAPT)

The ECONADAPT project provides user-orientated methodologies and evidence relating to economic appraisal criteria to inform the choice of adaptation actions using analysis that incorporates cross-scale governance under conditions of uncertainty. More

Linking Climate and Development Policies - Leveraging International Networks and Knowledge Sharing (CD-LINKS)

The CD-LINKS project brings together a consortium of seventeen leading international research organizations from around the globe to explore national and global transformation strategies for climate change and their linkages to a range of sustainable development objectives. More

Adaptation and Decision Support via Risk Management Through Local Burning Embers (ARISE)

Developing a decision support system for climate-sensitive iterative risk management to address adaptation in Austria More

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Last edited: 14 July 2016


Reinhard Mechler

Deputy Program Director

Risk and Resilience

T +43(0) 2236 807 313

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