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Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Research Organisation
The transformation of the global climate system, set going by the very nature of our technical civilization, represents one of the greatest challenges so far in the history of mankind.
The main cause of this development is the emission of greenhouse gases (such as CO 2 , CH 4 and N 2 O) by industry, traffic and households, which has modified the radiation balance of the Earth’s atmosphere and will bring about a planetary warming of two to three degrees Celsius in the 21st Century. And this is happening, moreover, during one of the Earth’s warm periods, a time at which our environment is anyway at the peak of a natural fever. The special challenge noted initially relates to the complexity of the expected repercussions, the gigantic spatiotemporal range of the perturbation, the irreversibility of probable damage to innumerable ecological an socioeconomic systems and to the completely novel aspects of international and intergenerational justice that are involved: who pays the price, who is liable, who profits, who makes provision and who provides the aftercare?

Public opinion and politicians began about two decades ago to become interested in these questions, which initially were addressed only gradually at individual scientific conferences. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) was set up because nowhere did the research capacity exist which could provide well-founded answers to specific problems, not to speak of an integrated assessment of the problem as a whole. Scientists from all relevant disciplines (i.e. meteorology, ecology, economic sciences, systems analysis, etc.) work together closely and without bias ('horizontal integration') considering all aspects of the relevant problem (from its formulation to proposals for its solution for decision-makers) ('vertical integration'). The possibilities to contain human-induced ('anthropogenic') climate change at a tolerable level, together with suitable measures to adapt to the unavoidable warming of the planet (with its particularly grave consequences for the poorest developing countries), are at the core of the institute’s research.