Welcome to the PIK sustainability transition pages

Climate change is only one of numerous current challenges summarized under the term "global change". In order to meet and to respond to these challenges change in production and consumption patterns is required. Many of these challenges are direct consequences of current unsustainable development patterns, based on high levels of resource consumption. This often leads to pollution of air, water and soils as well as to environmental degradation. This indicates that business as usual is not an option. Less environmentally harmful input in energy and a more sustainable use of raw materials, we can and have to achieve improved livelihoods for the people. In other words, we have to enable a life within the critical planetary boundaries (Rockström et al., 2012) of safe operating space while guaranteeing increased well-being. In many regions of the world, poverty prevails and these regions are also amongst the most heavily affected by climate change impacts. Thus, resources should be distributed more fairly and ways should be found to reduce increasing inequalities in wealth and incomes.

Our research

Research on sustainability transitions aims at advancing the understanding of the dynamics of human-environment systems. We want to improve the evaluation of potential trade-offs and synergies between mitigation, adaptation and development. Accordingly, the objectives of the sustainable transitions group are:
  • To derive the first principles of the interplay between development stages, economic dynamics and climate protection.
  • To design sustainable development pathways at the country level that make explicit account of trade-offs.
  • To understand drivers and barriers and the role of civil society for the sustainable development pathways
  • To evaluate incremental and transformational adaptation option for regions with the highest environmental risks.

Central research areas of the sustainable transitions group are: The most commonly used methods are data integration and pattern detection based on machine learning. Moreover, we derive hypotheses of fundamental relationships and verify these using existing data sets. Additionally, dynamical modelling approaches are applied. These methods allow the identification and differentiation of possible and impossible future pathways for the development of nations. But still, it remains an open question how a system shift to a different pathway may happen. Policies and economic incentives are important contributions to such a shift. However, novel ideas, changes in attitudes and lifestyles are just as important but often derive from smaller groups or niches within a society. To learn how these diverse processes interact and result in a system shift, we research the role of grassroots initiatives for their bottom-up contribution to the shift to a different pathway in context of the TESS project.

The purpose of this web-site is to share the research insights on sustainability transitions in view of climate change (impacts, adaptation, and mitigation) publicly. Therefore, we make scientific literature, complementary information and data as well as our programming code publicly available. The provided material is intended to foster new research on sustainability transition in regard of climate change.

Image source: gsa.gov