Systemic Risks

The growing complexity of our world is making it increasingly difficult to anticipate and tackle emerging risks. What effect will interventions to cool the Earth’s atmosphere (often referred to as “climate engineering”) have on the environment, the economy, and human health? What are the risks posed by the growing ubiquity of digital technologies? What chain reactions could future financial crises trigger? What are the impacts of climate change and its implications for social justice? These questions are the focus of research in the project “Systemic Risks”.

Identifying common structural features

Systemic risks are characterised by the global scale of their impacts, coupled with a high degree of complexity and interconnectivity. This project will analyse the interdependencies between science and society, with a particular focus on the handling of systemic risks and scientific uncertainty across a range of fields, including business, technology, the environment, and society, with a view to identifying common patterns and structural features of systemic risk. This research will improve our understanding of how systemic risks build up and will enable researchers to identify early warning signs.

Enhancing responses to systemic risks

The development of an early warning system for systemic risks is a global goal of this research project. Researchers will also seek to identify policy instruments and methods of governance with the capacity to alleviate systemic risks. Contributions to various scientific journals will be complemented by the publication of research dossiers and two book-length volumes. Several workshops were already held in 2016 and a further impulse workshop is planned for 2017.



01/2017 to 12/2020

Project partners:

  • Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities
  • International Risk Governance Council
  • Arizona State University (USA)
  • Beijing Normal University (China)
  • Global Climate Forum (Germany)
  • Leuphana University Lüneburg (Germany)


Recognition of complex patterns, dynamic modelling, risk governance, integrated risk assessment, sustainable financial system, global risk management


Scientific Project Leader: Dr Pia-Johanna Schweizer

Research Associates: Dr Armin Haas, Dr Frank Meissner, Katharina Beyerl, Sean Low, Dr Edouard Cottin-Euziol

Supervising Directors: Prof. Mark Lawrence, Prof. Ortwin Renn