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PREVENT- Assessing and preventing dangerous climate change

The “ultimate objective” of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) stated in Article 2 is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. The PREVENT project will provide scientific insights and tools that help to define “What is dangerous climate change?” and to operationalize Article 2. The project has three main components:

  1. identifying key vulnerabilities in selected world regions and developing a typology of climate change risks;

  2. applying and extending the guardrail approach, a decision-analytical framework for model-based climate policy analysis; and

  3. conducting expert elicitations and stakeholder dialogues, which address the scientific uncertainties and value judgements that are closely interweaved with the research question at hand.

The PREVENT team):

Antonella Battaglini (project co-leader)

Bill Hare (project co-leader)

Malte Meinshausen

Detlef Sprinz (currently on leave and at the University of Michigam)

Vera Tekken

The work of PREVENT is organised in three threads:

  1. Projected effects of climate change and questions of limits

  2. Integrated assessments of "guardrails"

  3. Expert and Stakeholder Assessment

Projected effects of climate change and questions of limits

 The project will first focus on identifying the projected effects of climate change in a representative set of world regions with respect to the question of tolerable limits to climate change within the framework of consideration of Article 2 of the UNFCCC. The regions selected share a range of general effects of climate change relevant to Article 2: impacts on ecosystems, food production and sustainable development. The aim is to compile and integrate knowledge on climate change impacts in these regions and to determine whether broad initial markers can be established for the sensitivity of regions to different levels of global mean climate change and the tolerability of projected effects.

This compilation is facilitated by the development of an anatomy of climate vulnerabilities that characterizes different risk types in the context of decision-making needs and the ability of science to meet them. This risk typology will also be used to further develop the guardrail approach and to provide guidance for participative integrated assessment.

Expected outcomes:

Beijing Symposium Book with the Synthesis Chapter leading into the anatomy question for example what might be “determinative” risks in relation to decisions on Article 2.

Ice Sheets and Article 2.

Relationship between impacts and global mean temperature and or CO2 levels: Ecosystems, biodiversity and climate change. 

Major review of literature until mid 2005 updates WBGU paper from 2003) with analysis of uncertainty in relationship of impacts to global mean temperature and timing of exceedance of risk thresholds.

Relationship between impacts and global mean temperature and or CO2 levels: Food, Health, Water and other socio-economic risks (updates and extends the WBGU report). 

Relationship between impacts and global mean temperature and or CO2 levels: Climate system risks

Review of Article 2 interpretations

Impacts of climate change on human security

Integrated assessment of “guardrails”

The second main component of PEVENT focuses on further developing and extending the guardrail approach, building on the existing expertise with the ‘tolerable windows approach’ and cost-effectiveness analysis. The guardrail approach aims at determining the set of policies that do not violate certain predefined constraints. There are three main tracks to be explored here: quantitative integrated assessment under guardrails, formulation of guardrails that allow for fluctuations and probabilistic uncertainty in climate and its impacts, and application of viability theory. The improved guardrail approach will eventually lead into new assessment tools that can be used among others for risk communication and response assessment.

Expected outcomes:

Probabilistic assessment of emission pathways to meet climate targets

Climate targets and climate regime structure

Expert and Stakeholder Assessments

Stakeholder dialogues 

The third main component, expert elicitations and stakeholder dialogues, addresses on perceived uncertainties and the normative dimensions of assessing and preventing dangerous climate change. The expert elicitations conducted in PREVENT will initially focus on large-scale climate discontinuities. The first of these will be likelihood and consequences for various climate-sensitive systems of complete or regional shutdown of the thermohaline circulation. PREVENT aims at extending this to include a few of the issues arising from the review of key vulnerabilities in the first component of the project. Subjective probability distributions of key uncertainties will be applied in conjunction with the extended guardrail approach. The stakeholder dialogues will be conducted mainly with expert stakeholders, such as policy makers, representatives of international organisations, NGOs, and companies. The objective of these science-based stakeholder dialogues is to debate and test the significance of the insights on regional vulnerability and to test the usefulness of developed tools (including risk communication tools, games and simulation tools). Furthermore stakeholder dialogues will also be used to identify and define frameworks for political options in the field of energy security and climate security. PREVENT will therefore also explore the opportunities of long-term policies to fulfil Article 2 and meet the EU 2°C target.

Expected outcomes:

China-EU process: Dialogue meeting China – EU: partners in the new global energy economy (ongoing)

ZEUS:  Zero Emissions EU Workshop Series (to be set up)


PREVENT aims to collaborate with other PIK project whenever possible. Outside of PIK PREVENT will cooperate with the European Climate Forum (ECF), E3G, IDDRI and other external partners. The first joint event with ECF was the Symposium on ‘Key Vulnerable Regions and Climate Change’, which brought together researchers and stakeholders to discuss key impacts on ecosystems, food production and sustainable development, as well as the limits to adaptation in selected regions. Dialogues between scientists and policy makers are expected to provide relevant insights about both the science relevant to judgements about dangerous climate change and the factors which stakeholders consider important. Apart from advancing scientific and policy knowledge in this area PREVENT will provide inputs to the international scientific assessment process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and to the UNFCCC discussions on combating climate change.


Up to now PREVENT has obtained funds from BMU (UFOPLAN), it will be further funded starting in 2007 from the EU funded project CIRCE (Climate Change and Impact Research: the Mediterranean Environment).


Publications (to be completed)

Hare, W., Battaglini, A., Cramer, W. And Jaeger C. Climate Hotspots – Key vulnerable regions and climate change (in preparation to be published by Springer in 2007)

Scheffran, J., Battaglini, A. Climate and Conflicts The impact of global warming on international security. In Hare, W., Battaglini, A., Cramer, W. And Jaeger C. Climate Hotspots – Key vulnerable regions and climate change (submitted)

Reusswig, F. and Battaglini A. Lifestyle Dynamics as Catalyst of a Sustainable Energy Transition in

To be contibued

Workshops and Events

Beijing Symposium 2004

China-EU process, Beijing 2005

KyotoPlus – Escaping the climate trap international congress 2006 (in cooperation with ECF, WWF, Heinrich Boell Foundation and the Wuppertal Institute)

China-EU process Forum at the KyotoPlus Congress 2006 (Organised via ECF and lead by A. Battaglini)

Options and constraints for a renewables based  economy – Forum at the KyotoPlus Congress 2006 (Organised via ECF and lead by A. Battaglini)


References (To be added)

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