Research Department 3 - Transformation Pathways


RD3 approaches the multi-dimensional analysis of transformation pathways with selected research questions and methods addressing the core aspects of the transformative change humankind is facing.

Pathway-specific climate risks

Climate change impacts range from bio-physical to economic to social. These dimensions are targeted by three research groups forming the area “Pathway-specific climate risks” led by Katja Frieler:

  • Data-Centric Modeling of Cross-Sectoral Impacts (Lead: Matthias Mengel): How could biophysical climate impacts develop in the 21st century, and what can we learn about it from past impacts and data-centric impact modelling?
  • Event-based modeling of economic impacts of climate change
    (Lead: Christian Otto): How does climate change impact on the socio-economic system in the short and in the long-term?
  • Impacts of climate change on human population dynamics (Lead: Jacob Schewe): How will climate change alter global patterns of human migration and displacement?   

Mitigation and sustainable development pathways

The other side of the climate transformation is investigated in the area “Mitigation and sustainable development pathways” led by Elmar Kriegler. It approaches the topic with four research groups:

  • Landuse management / transformation (Lead: Alexander Popp):  How will land use adapt to a changing climate and how can it be transformed to reduce its emissions and enhance terrestrial carbon storage?
  • Energy systems (Lead: Gunnar Luderer): How do we need to transform energy systems from national to global scales in order to stop climate change and harness sustainable development?
  • Climate & Energy Policies (Lead: Michael Pahle): What policy pathways can deliver on eventually achieving the low-carbon transformation in Germany, the EU and other jurisdictions?
  • Macroeconomic modeling of climate change mitigation and impacts (Lead: Marian Leimbach): What are the economy-wide implications of climate mitigation and climate impacts on economic growth, structural change and income?  

RD3 uses modelling tools and empirical analysis of past and current climate impact trends for its research.

Research Software Engineering for Transformation Pathways (Lead: Jan Philipp Dietrich & Lavinia Baumstark) An additional group has been formed to boost software engineering standards in large-scale scientific modeling and thereby to further increase quality of scientific output.


Two FutureLabs are assigned to RD3 pursuing new and emerging research topics further strengthening the link to other RDs and the MCC:

  • Security, Ethnic Conflicts and Migration (Lead: Jacob Schewe (RD3), N.N.): How will future climate change affect migration patterns, social stability, and the risk of violent conflict for different regions and populations?
  • Public Economics and Climate Finance (Lead: Kai Lessmann (RD3), Matthias Kalkuhl (MCC)): What policies reconcile social and economic development with long-term environmental sustainability?