Program History

History of atmospheric pollution research at IIASA

Sky and clouds

Sky and clouds

Research into atmospheric pollution goes back to the early days of IIASA when scientists modeled the effects of acid rain and transboundary air pollution within Europe. In 1986 the Acid Rain Project was formally established to model emissions and control costs for SO2 and NOX, while 1991 saw the introduction of the Transboundary Air Pollution Program. Both these programs were precursors to the Atmospheric Pollution and Economic Development (APD) Program which subsequently evolved first into the Mitigation of Air Pollution & Greenhouse Gases (MAG) Program and then, in 2016, into the Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases Program (AIR) of today. It is noteworthy that IIASA was a pioneer in developing the methodology and tools necessary for assessing atmospheric pollution and the decision support analysis techniques for reducing and controlling it.

The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) entered into force in 1983 and has been extended by eight specific protocols. The RAINS model, used in "optimization mode," was used extensively during the negotiation process of the Second Sulfur Protocol, signed in 1994 under the CLRTAP, to elaborate effect-based emission control strategies. The Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone, signed in Gothenburg (Sweden) on 30 November 1999, set emission ceilings for 2010 for four pollutants: sulfur, NOX, VOCs and ammonia. It was negotiated on the basis of scientific assessments of pollution effects and abatement options carried out by IIASA using the RAINS model.

IIASA's RAINS model was also used as the central model used in the Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) program, launched by the European Commission in 2001 to review current air quality policies and assessing progress towards attainment of the European Union's long-term air quality objectives, as laid down in the Sixth Environment Action Programme.

The CAFE program deals with fine particles and ground-level ozone, both because of their serious effects on health and the enormous efforts required to bring their concentrations down to acceptable levels. Other outstanding air pollutant problems, such as acidification and eutrophication, were also given high attention under CAFE.

''IIASA has a long history of interest in air pollution issues. The institute's researchers and model developers also have been strategic in selling their Regional Air Pollution Information and Simulation (RAINS) models of atmospheric transport and deposition of pollution in Europe to policymakers across the continent.  They held demonstrations and workshops involving policymakers and non-IIASA researchers and modelers in Geneva at the UNECE Secretariat, at IIASA, and in West and East European capitals.... Many scientific and technical participants in LRTAP assessment bodies...believed IIASA's association with the RAINS model added extra legitimacy to the work that other national models could not match...a national model could never have achieved the status within LRTAP assessment and negotiating activities garnered by RAINS.''

Farrell, A.E. and Jager, J, 2005, European Polictics with a Scientific Face, in A.E. Farrell and J. Jager (eds) Assessments of Regional and Global Environmental Risks, resources for the Future, Washington, D.C., USA.

Print this page

Last edited: 07 April 2016


Farrell, AE, Jager J (2005)

European Polictics with a Scientific Face, in A.E. Farrell and J. Jager (eds) Assessments of Regional and Global Environmental Risks, resources for the Future, Washington, D.C., USA.

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