Headline: Systemic Interdependencies: Nature, Technology, Society

Current global processes of transformation present significant challenges for sustainability research, not least of all due to their inherently complex nature and associated risks. Many of these processes - globalisation and the digital transition, for example - are located at the intersections of technology, nature, and society. The research area on "Systemic Interdependencies" analyses the complex interactions between technology, nature, and society against a background of global transformation. Each group in this research area analyses these interdependencies from a different perspective, complementing the work of the other research groups. The area pursues the overarching goal of studying the conditions for a broad societal transformation towards sustainability from an interdisciplinary perspective. In addition to this, the area develops formats for policy advice to ensure that its research results contribute to current processes of transformation. Researchers in the group Digitalisation & Sustainability study the potential risks and benefits of using digital technologies in communications, services, and industrial production for transformations towards sustainable economies and societies. The group applies a transdisciplinary research approach to analyse the effects and interactions of modern digital technologies and services on society and the natural environmental. The Air Quality group investigates how the use of technologies contributes to the emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gases and studies interactions between air pollution and climate change. How can research help to foster a shift across society towards greater sustainability against this background? The Climate Engineering group investigates how ideas of using technology to intervene in the global climate find their way into science, society, and politics, and how scientific expertise and societal imaginaries develop and shape each other. The Systemic Risks group investigates the effects of systemic interdependencies at the intersection of technology, nature, and society. In its interdisciplinary research, the group analyses the risks and potential benefits of transformation processes for sustainable development and generates policy recommendations for the transdisciplinary and transformative governance of systemic risks.

IASS Fact Sheet

Digitalization in Africa: New Publication Opportunities and Obstacles

Digital technologies are important tools to facilitate the flow of goods, capital, knowledge, data, and ideas around the world. Many countries in Africa hope to bolster their economies by tapping into the opportunities offered by digitalization. However, they face obstacles along the way. A new IASS Fact Sheet offers a brief overview of different aspects of the digital transformation that is taking place across Africa.

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Automobile industry

Big Data Can Support Corporate Environmental Management

Faced with the challenges of digitalization and the climate crisis, many companies are keen to improve their sustainability. In a new study, researchers examine the potential uses of data analysis to strengthen corporate environmental management in the automotive industry. The study reveals that Big Data could enhance corporate environmental management in a variety of ways and that many of these opportunities are going untapped.

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Report

Air Quality and Ozone: the Current State of Play

The threat posed by ozone to human health and vegetation continues to be a matter of concern for German politicians, scientists, and the general public. Participants in a workshop organised by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and the German Environment Agency (UBA) analysed the current state of knowledge on ozone and identified areas where more action is required. The resulting publication contains a catalogue of recommendations for tackling the ozone problem.

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Green-Win-Project

How ecological Value Chains Can Help Societies Tackle the Coronavirus Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has cast a spotlight on the vulnerability of global value chains. Sustainable value chains at the regional level could bring more stability to the post-pandemic world. A team of researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has developed a typology of climate win-win strategies that can be used to identify sustainable regional value chains.

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Coronavirus

Better Prepared for Future Crises: Recommendations from Risk Researchers

Although there were early warnings of an exponentially growing pandemic, most policymakers around the world were unprepared and reluctant to act when Covid-19 first spread from China around the world. Since then the crisis has led to unprecedented restrictions and triggered the worst recession since the Second World War. In an article published in the Journal of Risk Research, Aengus Collins, Marie-Valentine Florin (both EPFL International Risk Governance Center) and IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn analyze the key factors and offer recommendations on how we can better prepare for future crises.

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How is Covid-19 affecting the global economic order?

Scenarios for the Global Monetary System

Supply chains collapse, companies are facing bankruptcy, and mass unemployment ensues. Covid-19 has triggered a global financial crisis and is forcing states to develop rescue packages on a scale not seen before. In addition, the crisis has called into question the US dollar's hegemony and could redefine the global monetary system. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has developed four scenarios that show how political decisions will shape the post-Corona world.

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Report Submitted to EU Commission

How can science better support policymaking?

Today, more than ever, politicians rely on sound scientific advice to make decisions. The political issues that most need scientific input are those where the science itself is often complex and uncertain. A SAPEA working group under the leadership of Ortwin Renn has developed proposals for good scientific advice.

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SAPEA Report

Scientific Expertise Vital to EU Policymaking

In its latest report, the European organisation SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) has spoken out in favour of scientific advice for policymaking. By accessing the best available knowledge, policymakers are better equipped to tackle complex global challenges such as climate change. The report was prepared by an international working group comprising representatives of all the science academies of the EU member states. The group was chaired by Ortwin Renn from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS).

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Award

Order of Merit Awarded to IASS Director

Eighteen people were recently awarded the Order of Merit of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg by Governor Winfried Kretschmann. Professor Ortwin Renn, Scientific Director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) was among them. Renn was honoured for his outstanding contribution to the transfer of scientific insights into politics, public administration and management and his unstinting commitment to a just and sustainable economic and social order.

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Risk Governance Concept

Advancing Disaster Risk Reduction

Populations are growing in disaster-prone areas around the world. The interaction of natural hazards with physical infrastructure in these regions can trigger devastating chain reactions, harming societies and their technical foundations. What can be done to address these challenges? A team at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has developed a multi-level risk governance concept for natural disasters.

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Transdisciplinary Project to Investigate the Unintended Side Effects of Digitalisation

Digitalisation is changing how we live, but not only for the better: In addition to giving rise to new products, opportunities and services, it’s also having unintended side effects. The project “Digital Data as a Subject of Transdisciplinary Processes” (DiDaT) focuses on both the opportunities and the undesired consequences of digitalisation. It aims to identify and analyse side effects and make concrete proposals for coping with them. At an event to kick-start the project at the end of March, researchers and practitioners came together in Potsdam to define the main areas the project will focus on and outline potential solutions.

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Making Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Drivers of Green Growth: Recommendations for Politics and Business

“Green growth” promises to foster sustainable development while promoting economic prosperity and advancing social justice. But how does this work in practice? The EU-funded research project “Green Growth and Win-Win Strategies for Sustainable Climate Action” (Green-Win) has studied a range of green growth strategies. Its research results include a new guide to green business models and policy recommendations to foster green growth and support small and medium-sized enterprises.

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How Cities Should Approach Complex Risk Situations

Cities are more vulnerable than rural areas to a host of risks. Natural hazards like earthquakes or social risks like vandalism and crime have a far greater impact there. Moreover, the infrastructure of our cities is increasingly networked, and while smart cities may offer more in terms of security and convenience, data protection often falls by the wayside. Since risks are frequently interconnected, we need to take an integrated approach to managing them. A concept for risk governance elaborated by IASS researchers in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Science reflects just such an approach.

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Anxious Times: New Book by IASS Director Ortwin Renn

How powerful is fear and what effect does it have on our society? These questions are at the heart of a recently published book by the environmental and technical sociologist Ortwin Renn. In “Zeit der Verunsicherung” (Anxious Times), the Scientific Director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) probes the causes and effects, as well as the perception and handling of fears in our society.

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Blog Posts

Facing Down the Plastic Flood – Recycling, a Plastic Tax, and the Barriers to Behaviour Change

In May 2020 I was a guest on an episode of the TV show “Planet Wissen” dedicated to “Pathways out of the Plastic Flood”. It was an opportunity for me to talk about the preliminary results of our work in the ENSURE project on “Plastic: Social Perception and Behaviour Patterns”. The journalist Andrea Wojtkowiak had sent me a few questions in advance, but – as is so often the case – there wasn’t enough time to discuss everything in detail during the programme itself. So for all those interested in the issue of plastic, here are the more in-depth answers.

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Coronavirus

Will the pandemic widen the global digital divide?

Many countries are riding a wave of digitalization in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with office staff working from home, friends meeting on video conferencing platforms, online trade booming and governments rolling out tracing apps to track infection chains. However, developing and emerging countries could suffer setbacks in their efforts to strengthen their economies and societies through the adoption of digital technologies. Now more than ever, states must double down on efforts to ensure a globally just digital transition.

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Coronavirus

Lessons from the Corona Crisis for sustainable crisis management

Not since the Second World War has German society experienced a challenge to society that compares to the current global pandemic. While it is not possible at this point to fully assess the implications of this crisis for public health, the economic and society, the measures and regulations adopted to date are unprecedented in post-war German history in terms of their scope and impact on citizens across the country.

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Coronavirus

What the pandemic says about how we deal with systemic risks

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has fundamentally changed our lives within a short period. The world is in a state of emergency and there is no end in sight. The pandemic triggered by the coronavirus is a dynamic event shaped by many different factors, in particular human behaviour (e.g. hygiene behaviour and social interactions), making it highly variable. In many countries, the number of infections is rising exponentially. In the absence of effective therapeutic drugs or a vaccine, the number of infections can only be reduced by adopting far-reaching measures to restrict direct social contact ("physical distancing").

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Coronavirus

Climate Action from the Comfort of Your Own Home Office?

Just two weeks ago, the suggestion that many people would soon be working exclusively from home would have been met with disbelief. Home office? Out of the question! Yet in the short time since then curfews have been imposed in some German states and teleworking has become the new normal – at least for jobs that depend largely on a computer and Internet access.

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Thoughts on the Digital Agenda of the Federal Ministry of Environment

The issue of digitalisation and sustainable development has – finally! – reached a wider public. When IASS launched a research project on digitalisation five years ago, only a few researchers were concerned about the relationship between the digital transition and sustainability. However, the number of publications and events on this topic has increased noticeably, especially in the last year. In April of this year, the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) then presented its flagship report entitled "Towards our Common Digital Future". Just a few weeks later at the annual re:publica conference the duo of digitalisation and sustainability was already inseparable. There, the Federal Minister of the Environment, Svenja Schulze, presented a green paper outlining a digital policy agenda for the environment.

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Industry 4.0 – taking efficiency to new heights?

The term Industry 4.0 has been bandied about increasingly since it was established in 2011. Also referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 describes the growing use of digital technologies to link manufacturing technologies and facilitate continuous real-time data exchange. These manufacturing systems are based on interconnected cyber-physical systems with the capacity to independently organize and optimize their performance. Industry 4.0 promises to fundamentally transform manufacturing industry.

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