2017 Annual Report https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at IIASA Wed, 16 May 2018 11:47:48 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2 https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/01/favicon-45x45.jpg 2017 Annual Report https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at 32 32 Reaching out to the IIASA constituency https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/iiasa-constituency/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/iiasa-constituency/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 08:34:18 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4911

The Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program’s strategy for engagement with the IIASA science and policy communities include a focus on a few high-level international science and policy initiatives and the dissemination of results from its research activities on various open source web-based platforms. To respond to growing demand for targeted capacity building, the program experimented with a new format in 2017, with three interactive research seminars held in China and India.

Given its small size, the TNT Program relies on a few high-level high-visibility international fora, and science and policy initiatives to disseminate research findings and to engage at the science-policy interface. Key partners at the international level include the United Nations, the World Bank, and in particular the Global Environmental Facility, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The World in 2050 (TWI2050) initiative in which the program actively participates, involves more than 30 partners and collaborating institutions. Individual collaborations with researchers involved in ongoing TNT research, involve institutions from multiple countries including Austria, China, Germany, India, Japan, Sweden, UK, and the USA.

TNT models and databases: Energy Primer; Historical Case Studies of Energy Technologies (HCSET); Logistic Substitution Model 2 (LSM2); Energy and Carbon Emissions Inventories Database (ECDB); Scaling Dynamics of Energy Technologies (SD-ET); Primary, Final and Useful Energy Database (PFUDB).

Documentation of the program’s research output is achieved through the IIASA online publication repository PURE, as well as a number of other online resources. The community-service database tools jointly managed by TNT and the IIASA Energy (ENE) Program, and spearheaded by Peter Kolp, have become a hallmark of the institute’s mission of supporting scientific research, documentation, and dissemination, and provide the widest possible outreach with limited in-house resources. The use of TNT online tools and the TNT-ENE community service data bases, has grown exceptionally and is fast approaching 100,000 unique visitors and four million page downloads, which represents 54% of all internet downloads for the institute in 2017.

TNT-ENE community service databases and tools: IPCC (AR5, AR5History, RCP, SSP); EU-projects (AMPERE, LIMITS, ADVANCE, CDLINKS); other (all other databases, WorkDb, EMFxx, LAMP, AME, GGI, GEA).

In order to respond to a growing demand for more targeted capacity building outside of the IIASA premises, three interactive research seminars were held at collaborating institutions in China and India in 2017. The events combined a classical seminar format aimed at disseminating conceptual and methodological advances achieved at IIASA with interactive discussion sessions where local researchers presented ongoing research projects for feedback, and explored potential collaboration opportunities. Organized by collaborating or partner institutions in member countries, local seminar participants were selected through a competitive application process. IIASA and the local collaborating or partner institutions jointly developed the overall themes for each event. The workshops held in 2017 comprised a two-day seminar on the topic “Modeling Technological Change” at the East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai; a five-day seminar titled, “An End-use Perspective on Transitions” at the Centre for Policy Research in New Dehli; and a one-day seminar on the topic “Energy Transformations and SDG Linkages” at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai.

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In search of viable pathways for sustainable development https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/sustainable-development/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/sustainable-development/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 08:28:30 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4912

The World in 2050 (TWI2050) is a global multi-year, multi-partner research initiative launched by IIASA with international partners that involves almost all research programs at the institute. The main focus of the initiative is on deriving viable pathways for achieving all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to provide fact-based knowledge to support associated policy processes and implementation issues. The initiative achieved several important research milestones in 2017.

IIASA, together with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Stockholm Resilience Center, and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, launched the TWI2050 initiative in the wake of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda that was agreed in New York in 2015. Using an integrated and systemic approach, TWI2050 aims to address the full spectrum of transformational challenges related to achieving all 17 SDGs. The objective is to provide the science and policy advice needed to achieve these goals in an integrated manner to avoid potential conflicts among the 17 goals and reap the benefits of potential synergies for achieving them together. TWI2050 brings together the leading modeling and analytical teams from around the world, including major policy institutions to analyze possible sustainable development pathways for a systems transformation that achieves the SDGs together, while staying within Planetary Boundaries in the long-term.

Hierarchical decomposition and grouping of the 17 SDGs explored in TWI2050.

Under the leadership of Nebojsa Nakicenovic, IIASA Deputy Director and a researcher with the Transition to New Technologies (TNT) Program who also serves as Executive Director of TWI2050, important progress was made in 2017. The scientific framing of the TWI2050 initiative was completed and a draft paper on defining the SDG target spaces and associated indicators for 2030 and 2050 was completed. Both these papers, along with first drafts of corresponding SDG narratives, were presented and discussed at the third annual TWI2050 meeting, where the working groups also met to deliberate on their work plans around the major themes addressed by the initiative.

These activities are currently being integrated into a first TWI2050 report that will be presented to the UN High Level Political Forum in New York in July 2018. TWI2050 results related to technology policy were also presented to the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisory Group on Technology Facilitation where Nakicenovic serves as a member. In addition to the above, the TWI2050 initiative developed a draft funding strategy and was actively involved with the Belmont Forum of Science Funding Agencies to prepare an SDG-related call for research proposals that is anticipated to become a major source of funding for TWI2050-related research globally.


[1] Gomez Echeverri L (2018). Climate and development: enhancing impact through stronger linkages in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 376 (2119): e20160444.

[2] Gomez Echeverri L (2018). Investing for rapid decarbonization in cities. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 30: 42-51.

[3] McCollum DL, Gomez Echeverri L, Busch S, Pachauri S, Parkinson S, Rogelj J, Krey V, Minx JC, et al. (2018). Connecting the sustainable development goals by their energy inter-linkages. Environmental Research Letters 13 (3): 033006.

[4] Zimm C, Sperling F, & Busch S (2018). Identifying Sustainability and Knowledge Gaps in Socio-Economic Pathways Vis-à-Vis the Sustainable Development Goals. Economies 6 (2): p. 20.

[5] Gomez Echeverri L (2018). A Review of the Nature of Foreign Aid to the Energy Sector over the Last Two Decades. In: Aid Effectiveness for Environmental Sustainability. Eds. Huang, Y. & Pascual, U., pp. 125-184 Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.

[6] Rogner H-H & Leung K-K (2018). The Effectiveness of Foreign Aid for Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Mitigation. In: Aid Effectiveness for Environmental Sustainability. pp. 81-124 Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.

[7] Arimoto T, Barros LF, Bergmann M, Berkman PA, AL-Bulushi YBA, Colglazier WE, Copeland D, Chernukhin E, et al. (2017). A Global Network of Science and Technology Advice in Foreign Ministries. Science & Diplomacy (Submitted)

[8] Fricko O, Havlik P, Rogelj J, Klimont Z, Gusti M, Johnson N, Kolp P, Strubegger M, et al. (2017). The marker quantification of the Shared Socioeconomic Pathway 2: A middle-of-the-road scenario for the 21st century. Global Environmental Change 42: 251-267.

[9] Jackson RB, Canadell JG, Fuss S, Milne J, Nakicenovic N, & Tavoni M (2017). Focus on negative emissions. Environmental Research Letters 12 (11): e110201.

[10] Messner D & Nakicenovic N (2017). Transformation zur Nachhaltigkeit ist nötig. Welt Trends 134: 70-71.

[11] Nakicenovic N & Zimm C (2017). New technological solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals and beyond. Environmental Scientist 26 (3): 68-73.

[12] Peters GP, Andrew RM, Canadell JG, Fuß S, Jackson RB, Korsbakken JI, Le Quéré C, & Nakicenovic N (2017). Key indicators to track current progress and future ambition of the Paris Agreement. Nature Climate Change 7 (2): 118-122.

[13] Yu Y, Zhou L, Zhou W, Ren H, Kharrazi A, Ma T, & Zhu B (2017). Decoupling environmental pressure from economic growth on city level: The Case Study of Chongqing in China. Ecological Indicators 75: 27-35.

[14] McCollum D, Gomez Echeverri L, Riahi K, & Parkinson S (2017). SDG7: Ensure Access to Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable and Modern Energy for All. In: A guide to SDG interactions: from science to implementation. Eds. Griggs, D.J., Nilsson, M., Stevance, A. & McCollum, D., pp. 127-173 International Council for Science, Paris.

[15] Nakicenovic N & Zimm C (2017). Back to the Future: The Role of Quantitative Scenarios and Narratives in Understanding Transformation to Sustainability. In: Future Scenarios of Global Cooperation – Practices and Challenges. Eds. Dahlhaus, N. & Weißkopf, D., pp. 24-34 Duisburg, Germany: Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research.

[16] International Council for Science (2017). A Guide to SDG Interactions: from Science to Implementation. International Council for Science, Paris.

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Systems solutions for sustainability transitions https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/sustainability-transitions/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/sustainability-transitions/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 08:15:59 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4910

The Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program focuses on the systemic aspects of technological change and draws on empirical case studies, novel modeling approaches, as well as scenario studies and robustness analysis to inform technology policy choices from a systemic perspective.

In 2017, researchers from the program, in collaboration with colleagues from the Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases (AIR), Energy (ENE), and Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) programs at IIASA, developed a Low Energy Demand (LED) scenario. The research is part of the Alternative Pathways toward Sustainable development and climate stabilization (ALPS) collaborative research project with the Research Institute for Innovative Technologies for the Earth (RITE) in Japan. This scenario is an innovative illustration of alternative pathways for sustainability transitions through an end-use driven approach of technological and behavioral change. A derived scenario variant will also provide the integrative pathway that will be used in the global research initiative–The World in 2050 (TWI2050)–that supports the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The LED project was initiated and completed as a fast track research input to the ongoing Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5°C. This project illustrates the comparative advantages offered by small, flexible research programs such as TNT that can act nimbly in response to important research opportunities. The study was also conducted as part of the longer-term ALPS collaboration framework with colleagues from RITE and involved a network of some 20 scientists from the AIR, ENE, ESM, and TNT programs at IIASA, as well as representatives from TNT’s network of alumni and research collaborators.

End-use and demand-driven “peak energy” in a scenario of meeting a climate target of 1.5°C without negative emissions technologies. Final energy output (EJ, top panels) and primary energy extracted (EJ bottom panels) for the Global North, South and the World respectively. Declining energy needs result from rapid end-use innovations including new technologies, business models, and behaviors that yield step changes in efficiency and reductions in resource requirements, while providing for higher amenities and services in a rapidly developing world.

The objective of the study was to develop an illustration of an alternative strategy for meeting the stringent 1.5°C climate target formulated as an aspirational goal at the Paris climate negotiations. Instead of relying on large-scale supply side technological solutions, most notably a massive deployment of so-called negative emissions technologies (removal of CO2 from the atmosphere), the new alternative pathway focuses on end-use, changing forms of service provision like the sharing and circular economy, as well as granular technology options. This could provide a step-change in resource efficiency, leading to a demand-driven “peak energy” that would allow meeting the 1.5°C target without any need for negative emissions technologies and with significant co-benefits for the SDGs.

A specific characteristic of this alternative scenario is that it combines a rich scenario narrative based on the insights gained from TNT’s research into historical technology transitions, and potential accelerators for systems changes with detailed modeling studies using IIASA integrated assessment models–GAINS, GLOBIOM, and MESSAGE–to examine the multiple implications of this alternative, rapid transition scenario. A paper is currently in the process of being published in a high-level journal, and the results have already been influential across almost all chapters of the forthcoming IPCC Special Report. A follow-up study extending this new scenario framework for an integrated approach to address SDG12 (responsible consumption and production) is currently being prepared for the TWI2050 initiative.


[1] Creutzig F, Roy J, Lamb JWF, Azevedo IML, Bruine de Bruin W, Dalkmann H, Edelenbosch O, Geels FW, et al (2018). Towards demand-side solutions for mitigating climate change. Nature Climate Change 8 (4): 268-271.

[2] Levesque A, Pietzcker RC, Baumstark L, De Stercke S, Grubler A & Luderer G (2018). How much energy will buildings consume in 2100? A global perspective within a scenario framework. Energy Policy (In Press).

IIASA Contributors


  • Charlie Wilson, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, UK and IIASA
  • Nuno Bento, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Portugal and IIASA
  • Simon De Stercke, Imperial College-London, UK and IIASA
  • Jonathan Cullen, University of Cambridge, USA

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Modeling sustainable transport options https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/sustainable-transport/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/sustainable-transport/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 08:08:53 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4902

Novel methodological concepts to simulate pervasive policy-driven transformations were for the first time tested in a real-world case study application to analyze policy targets associated with the city of Shanghai’s goal of having more electric vehicles on its roads by 2025.

The IIASA Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program’s pioneering agent-based modeling approaches, which extend the model representation of dynamic technology landscapes by a corresponding representation of networks of interacting producers and users of technologies, reached a new milestone in 2017. Following extensive model development and illustrative test simulations where the new type of model served primarily as a research tool, it was possible for the first time to calibrate the model with empirical data for a case study in the city of Shanghai.

By combining detailed statistics on vehicle registrations and an innovative application-based consumer survey (albeit with a limited sample size), researchers were able to test the agent-based modeling method in terms of how well it could reproduce the historical rapid growth in the vehicle market of the city. In addition to this, the researchers were able to explore policy options for a policy target scenario of one million electric vehicles in the city by 2025. This work is based on a long-standing successful collaboration with researchers from the East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) in Shanghai.

Calibration of historical vehicle market growth in the city of Shanghai with an agent-based model developed by an IIASA-ECUST research team. Also shown are the simulated impacts of technology push policies only, and an integrated approach including demand-pull policies leveraging social network and peer effects. In the latter case, the examined policy target of one million electric cars registered in the city might become feasible by 2028, indicating a case of very rapid transition.

First results from the study suggest that this highly ambitious target could be feasible if technology innovation push and social/behavioral pull strategies are combined to change consumer preferences, while maintaining the already highly substantial economic incentives for electric road vehicle purchases.

Given this encouraging initial result, a large scale, fully-fledged policy study was initiated. In collaboration with researchers in Israel–who have pioneered novel methods for consumer surveys in new business applications like shared- and electro-mobility–collaborators in China are currently preparing a new, larger scale survey. Research will also continue to extend the agent-based model with an energy systems component that will enable the detailed examination of the resource conservation potential from shared mobility models, as well as the possibility of using a large number of electric vehicle batteries as electricity storage.


[1] Bento N, Wilson C, & Anadon LD (2018). Time to get ready: Conceptualizing the temporal and spatial dynamics of formative phases for energy technologies. Energy Policy 119: 282-293.

[2] Shen F & Ma T (2018). A methodology to position nations’ efforts in a technology domain with a patent network analysis: case of the electric vehicle domain. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management: 1-21. (In Press)

[3] Zhang S, Ren H, Zhou W, Yu Y, Ma T, & Chen C (2018). Assessing air pollution abatement co-benefits of energy efficiency improvement in cement industry: A city level analysis. Journal of Cleaner Production 185: 761-771.

[4] Fang C & Ma T (2018). Technology Adoption Optimization with Heterogeneous Agents and Carbon Emission Trading Mechanism. In: Integrated Uncertainty in Knowledge Modelling and Decision Making. Eds. Huynh, VN, Inuiguchi, M, Tran, D & Denoeux, T, pp. 238-249 Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

[5] Chen H & Ma T (2017). Optimizing systematic technology adoption with heterogeneous agents. European Journal of Operational Research 257 (1): 287-296.

[6] Wilson C, Kriegler E, van Vuuren DP, Guivarch C, Frame D, Krey V, Osborn TJ, Schwanitz VJ, & Thompson EL (2017). Evaluating Process-Based Integrated Assessment Models of Climate Change Mitigation. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-17-007.


  • Vered Blass, Coller School of Management, Tel Aviv University
  • Tieju Ma, East China University of Science and Technology

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Finding solutions to ease pressure on water, land, and energy systems https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/water-land-energy-systems/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/water-land-energy-systems/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 07:38:12 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4889

The IIASA Energy Program (ENE) is pioneering systems analysis tools for analyzing the water-energy-land nexus. Water, land, and energy systems all face pressures. By analyzing interactions between these sectors, researchers can identify multi-sector vulnerabilities to global environmental change, solutions that meet multiple policy objectives, and quantify the cost of implementing multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

ENE continues to develop its well-established capabilities and expertise for understanding the complexities and linkages of the energy, water, and land nexus. A large collaboration, led by researchers from the program has developed a comprehensive framework to assess these interactions under different climate change and socioeconomic development scenarios [1]. Working with scientists from other IIASA programs as part of the Integrated Solutions for Water, Energy, and Land (ISWEL) project, the analysis uses a set of spatial indicators across the energy, water, and land sectors, to identify both sectoral and multi-sector ‘hotspots’–or areas that will face multiple climate and development challenges. The first results revealed that although global hotspot exposure is limited to a relatively small fraction of global land area, the risks to human populations would be large. The increase in exposed population to hotspots almost doubles (from 1.5 to 2.7 billion people) when moving from a global mean temperature increase of 1.5°C to 2.0°C, and increases similarly (from 2.7 to 4.6 billion people) when moving from 2.0°C to 3.0°C.

This analysis focuses on a dimension of climate impacts that is often missing from global assessments–the vulnerability of exposed populations. By using new high-resolution projections of future income levels, this work provides critical guidance into the regions where poverty eradication strategies would provide the largest reduction in vulnerability to climate change.

Other work undertaken within the ISWEL project, estimates the investment required for achieving clean water and sanitation (SDG6) to be between 1.1 to 1.6 trillion US$ per year by 2030 and between 1.5 and 2.1 trillion US$ by 2070 [2]. The costs grow by an estimated 2 to 6% when combined with energy decarbonization pathways consistent with a 1.5˚C climate target due to higher electricity prices under decarbonization and a growing share of electricity-intensive water resources. The analysis reveals that scenarios involving transformation towards sustainable water consumption patterns and energy-efficient water technologies largely avoid increasing water supply costs under combined policy objectives. The methodological developments to do this analysis and develop a reduced-form representation of the water supply sector into the MESSAGE-GLOBIOM integrated assessment model can now also be used for other SDG analysis over different sectors, timeframes, and geographic scales.

The nature of the interactions between SDG7 (energy) and the non-energy SDGs. The relationships may be either positive (left panel) or negative (right panel) to differing degrees. [3]

Working with the International Council for Science, ENE researchers also pioneered a systematic literature analysis to understand whether different SDGs reinforce, or conflict with each other. Using the goals related to “Affordable and Clean Energy” (SDG7) and “Climate Action” (SDG13) as an entry point, the research found that positive interactions far outweigh negative ones, both in number and magnitude [3]. In other words, efforts to achieve one SDG are likely to help achieve one of the others. Another key finding identified energy as one of the most influential SDGs, while meeting the targets related to “Affordable and Clean Energy” were found to have enabling, and in most cases, reinforcing benefits across all other SDGs. Efforts to increase renewable energy sources, for example, reinforces the SDGs on health and wellbeing by ensuring cleaner air and water. On the other hand, if meeting the “Clean Energy” SDG leads to growth in bioenergy, this could compromise the “Zero Hunger” SDG, as there is evidence that bioenergy and food prices are linked. Nonetheless, the scientists agree that achieving “Affordable and Clean Energy” would have enabling and reinforcing benefits for all other SDGs.


[1] Byers E, Gidden M, Leclere D, Burek P, Ebi KL, Greve P, Grey D, Havlik P, et al. (2018). Global exposure and vulnerability to multi-sector development and climate change hotspots. Environmental Research Letters.

[2] Parkinson S, et al. (2018). Balancing clean water-climate change mitigation tradeoffs. IIASA Working Paper, WP-18-005 (2018).

[3] McCollum DL, Gomez Echeverri L, Busch S, Pachauri S, Parkinson S, Rogelj J, Krey V, Minx JC, et al. (2018). Connecting the sustainable development goals by their energy inter-linkages. Environmental Research Letters 13 (3): 033006.

IIASA Contributors


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The climate implications of today’s energy policies https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/energy-policies/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/energy-policies/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 07:27:14 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4885

What do today’s energy policies add up to and how do they differ by region? Although climate change is a global problem, the policies to address it will be enacted at the national and local level. We need to understand the emissions implications of today’s energy policies to know if we are on the right track to meet global climate targets and what needs to be clarified within policy pledges to reduce uncertainty. Two recent papers from the IIASA Energy Program further our understanding of today’s policy proposals and their regional implications.

A study published in Nature Communications [1], carried out the first comprehensive uncertainty assessment of countries’ national climate pledges put forward during the Paris climate agreement (known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs) at both the global and regional scale. It robustly shows that current proposals are both imprecise and inadequate. The vagueness in pledges results in a large spread in what emission levels can be expected for the year 2030, which even if strengthened afterwards would fail to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal. The study identified China and India as two regions that contribute most to the overall uncertainty. As international negotiations are currently under way to define future rules for the formulation of and reporting on national pledges under the Paris Agreement, this study proposes several improvements to the NDCs reporting process, which would reduce overall uncertainty and increase accountability within international climate policy based on the most up-to-date science.

Another study led by IIASA researchers, published in Nature [2], looked into the global and regional effects of removing fossil fuel subsidies. It found that although fossil fuel subsidies amount to hundreds of billions of dollars, removing them would only slightly slow the growth of CO2 emissions, with the result that they would only be 1–5% lower by 2030 than if subsidies had been maintained. This equates to 0.5–2 gigatonnes (Gt/year) of CO2 by 2030–significantly less than the voluntary climate pledges made under the Paris Agreement–which add up to 4-8 Gt/year and are themselves not enough to limit warming to 2°C. Although the global effect on emissions is low, the impact varies between regions. The largest effects of removing subsidies were found in regions that export oil and gas, such as Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, and Russia. In these regions, the emissions savings caused by subsidy removal would either equal or exceed their climate pledges. It is also these oil and gas exporting regions whose government budgets are most strained under low oil prices and for whom subsidy removal would thus be a welcome relief.

The regional differences highlight one very important aspect of subsidy removal that needs to be taken into consideration: the impacts on the poor. Fortunately, the highest numbers of poor people are concentrated in the regions where removal of subsidies will have the weakest effect on CO2 emissions. Removing subsidies in richer oil and gas exporting regions would therefore provide significantly greater emissions savings and have a less detrimental impact on the poor.

In 2017, Energy Program research outreach fed directly into several international and regional policy processes, as well as into the broader scientific community. The insights of the Nature Communications paper were featured in the UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report [3], which provides an annual overview of the state of the science on climate action and in which the IIASA Energy Program has been taking up leading roles. Energy Program researchers were invited to present their insights at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Research Dialogue, the EU Issue Group on NDCs, and at a special session dedicated to the implications of the Paris Agreement at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest geoscience conference. The Nature paper was also covered by several news outlets including Scientific American.


[1] Rogelj J, Fricko O, Meinshausen M, Krey V, Zilliacus JJJ, & Riahi K (2017). Understanding the origin of Paris Agreement emission uncertainties. Nature Communications 8: e15748.

[2] Jewell J, McCollum D, Emmerling J, Bertram C, Gernaat DEHJ, Krey V, Paroussos L, Berger L, et al. (2018). Limited emission reductions from fuel subsidy removal except in energy exporting regions. Nature 554: 229-233.

[3] den Elzen M, Hohne N, Jiang K, Cantzler J, Drost P, Fransen T, Fekete H, Kuramochi T, et al. (2017). The emissions gap and its implications. In: The Emissions Gap Report 2017-A UN Environment Synthesis Report. pp. 11-26 Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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Developing an open source energy model https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/open-source-energy-model/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/open-source-energy-model/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 07:17:24 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4877

The IIASA Energy Program (ENE) has developed a new generation of its modeling platform MESSAGEix, which is now available under an open source license. The model is used for research applications, as well as for capacity building in IIASA member countries and teaching at universities.

The MESSAGE Integrated Assessment Model developed by ENE has been a central tool in energy-environment-economy systems analysis in the global scientific- and policy arena. It plays a major role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports; it provided marker scenarios of the Representative Concentration Pathways and the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways; and underpinned the analysis of the Global Energy Assessment.

To stay at the frontier of model development, numerical models of human and earth systems need to support higher spatial and temporal resolution, better integrate diverse data sources and methodologies, and become more open and transparent. To deal with these challenges, ENE developed a new modeling platform, called MESSAGEix, which is available under an open source license that facilitates external collaboration and joint model development. This new integrated assessment-modeling platform consists of four building blocks, including an open-source General Algebraic Modeling System (GAMS) implementation of the MESSAGE energy system model integrated with the MACRO economic model; a Java/database version-controlled data management repository; user interfaces for both the scientific programming languages Python and R for efficient input data and results processing workflows; and a web-based user interface for model/scenario management and intuitive drag-and-drop visualization of results.

Components and their interlinkages in the ix modeling platform [1]: web-based user interface, scientific programming interface, modeling platform, database backend, implementation of the MESSAGEix mathematical model formulation.

The framework aims for the highest level of openness of scientific analysis, bridging the need for transparency with efficient data processing and powerful numerical solvers. The platform is geared toward easy integration of data sources and models across disciplines, spatial scales, and temporal disaggregation levels. All tools apply best practice in collaborative software development and comprehensive documentation of all building blocks, while scripts are generated directly from the GAMS equations and the Java/Python/R source code.

At present, MESSAGEix is being used for building new integrated basin-level modeling tools to address the challenges of the water-energy-land nexus as part of the cross-cutting Integrated Solutions for Water, Energy, and Land (ISWEL) project. The model is also already actively being used by several research organizations in IIASA member countries, for example, the University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and TU Munich in Germany. ENE is also supporting government organizations in member countries to develop energy modeling capacity based on the MESSAGEix model, including the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) think tank in India and the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy, and Water Resources in Israel. Finally, in collaboration with universities, MESSAGEix is used for teaching energy and integrated assessment modeling, at, among others, TU Wien in Austria and Politechnico di Milano in Italy. For this purpose, ENE researchers have developed training materials, including a number of tutorials that are part of the MESSAGEix release.


[1] Huppmann D, Gidden M, Fricko O, Kolp P, Orthofer C, Pimmer M, Vinca A, Mastrucci A, et al. (2018). The MESSAGEix Integrated Assessment Model and the ix modeling platform (ixmp). Environmental Modelling & Software (In Press)

[2] Orthofer C, Huppmann D, & Krey V (2018). South Africa’s Shale Gas Resources – Chance or Challenge? Energy Policy (Submitted)

IIASA Contributors

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Ensuring a decent standard of living for all https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/decent-living/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/decent-living/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 07:12:32 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4869

How much energy growth and what climate impacts are associated with meeting basic human needs? Bottom-up modeling of energy demand requirements in three countries–Brazil, India, and South Africa–shows that current energy supply could provide decent living standards if equitably used. A number of studies by IIASA researchers revealed opportunities for improving living standards while lowering emissions growth.

The Decent Living Energy (DLE) project quantifies the relationship between basic human wellbeing, energy demand, and greenhouse gases. In 2017, the project completed a methodological tool to measure the energy needs for poverty eradication and applied it in Brazil, India, and South Africa to generate policy-relevant insights on the energy needs for poverty eradication in different national contexts. The methodology builds on a conceptualization of material requirements of human wellbeing, or decent living standards [1]. It applies a set of tools from industrial ecology–including multi-region, input-output and lifecycle analysis, and building simulation models–to trace the energy use through the economy, to quantify the energy use associated with the goods and services needed to meet basic needs.

Illustrative energy requirements to provide decent living standards in India and Brazil, showing capital turnover and operating energy. Note: Space conditioning includes hot water production.

These methodological advances have made it possible for researchers to quantify the energy needs for meeting gaps in housing, nutrition, and health and education [2][3], and to reveal limitations in demand-side modeling in integrated assessment research [4].

DLE also investigated past trends in achieving living standards and related energy consumption patterns [5][6][7]. This research shows that income is a crude predictor of household appliance uptake in emerging economies, and that affordability and culture play a significant role. Although living standards have improved across the world due to growing income, clean cooking and improved sanitation consistently lag behind electricity and improved water provision. The researchers found that these gaps affect women’s health in particular.

The energy needs for meeting the gaps in living standards are dominated by the construction of safe homes and transport infrastructure to provide mobility to all [3][8]. What is particularly important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is that basic needs, such as food, education, health care, and basic utilities, are relatively inexpensive in energy terms. Another piece of good news is that micronutrient deficiencies in India, which affects over two-thirds of Indians, can be reduced by shifting cereal consumption from rice to coarse cereals, which would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions [9]. This work was presented to policymakers in India who are evaluating alternative pricing policies for cereals.

Going forward, this work will facilitate a country wise assessment of the synergies between mitigating climate change and achieving other SDGs. Additionally, it will provide a foundation for future research on building energy demand projections from end-use services, rather than from GDP. DLE research outcomes generate policy insights on the synergies between energy planning, climate mitigation, and social development goals.


[1] Rao ND, Min J (2017). Decent living standards: material requirements for basic human wellbeing. Social Indicators Research, 1-20.

[2] Min J, Rao ND (2017). Estimating uncertainty in household energy footprints. Journal of Industrial Ecology. (In Press)

[3] Mastrucci A & Rao ND (2017). Decent housing in the developing world: Reducing life-cycle energy requirements. Energy and Buildings 152, 629-642.

[4] Rao ND, Ruijven BV, Riahi K, Bosetti V (2017). Improving poverty and inequality modeling in climate research. Nature Climate Change 7(12), 857-862.

[5] Rao ND, Ummel K (2017). White goods for white people? Drivers of electric appliance growth in emerging economies. Energy Research and Social Science 27.

[6] Steckel J, Rao ND, Jakob M (2017). Access to infrastructure services: Global trends and drivers. Utilities Policy 45,109-117.

[7] Rao ND, Pachauri S (2017). Energy access and living standards: Some observations on recent trends. Environmental Research Letters, 12 (2): e025011.

[8] Mastrucci A, Rao ND, Bridging the Indian housing gap: Lowering costs and CO2 emissions. Building Research and Information (In Review)

[9] Rao, ND, Min J, DeFries R, Ghosh SH, Valin H, Fanzo J (2018). Healthy, affordable and climate-friendly diets in India. Global Environmental Change, 49: 154-165.

IIASA Contributors


  • Columbia University, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, USA
  • Indian Institute for Public Health, India
  • Harvard University, USA
  • London School of Economics, UK
  • University of Sao Paolo, Brazil
  • Norway Institute for Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway

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Identifying development and climate vulnerability hotspots https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/hotspots/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/hotspots/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 07:52:42 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4661

Understanding the interplay between multiple climate change risks and socioeconomic development is increasingly required to inform policies to manage these risks in pursuit of the sustainable development agenda. To this end, IIASA researchers working on the Integrated Solutions for Water, Energy, and Land (ISWEL) project conducted a comprehensive assessment of the potential exposure of global and vulnerable populations to multi-sectoral climate risk hotspots under different levels of global warming.

The 21st century will see the global population increase from 7.5 billion in 2017, to an expected 8.5-10 billion in 2050 [1]. Future populations will be exposed to a growing range of climate change hazards of varying intensities, with some areas–or hotspots–exposed to more risks than others [2]. These risks are not just dependent on the severity of climate change and subsequent hazards, but also hinges critically on the population’s exposure, and their vulnerability and capacity to prepare for and manage changing risks. Recently, a few studies have brought attention to the fact that the world’s poorest are disproportionately exposed to climate risks, such as changes in temperature extremes and challenging hydro-climatic complexity [3].

In order to inform effective, integrated policy responses to these problems, it is necessary to assess the exposure of future global and vulnerable populations to multi-sector climate impact hotspots. IIASA researchers working on the ISWEL project investigated where the main multi-sector risk hotspots are located globally, how they might change with higher levels of global mean temperature rise, and to what extent socioeconomic development and poverty reduction can reduce risks. The results of their assessments indicate that, although global exposure to multi-sector risks will affect a relatively small fraction of global land area, the risks to human populations will be large.

The general structure of the assessment comprised the development of 14 climate and development indicators across the water, energy, and land sectors, and the aggregation of impacts and risks using new and established methods to produce multi-sector risk hotspot maps. These maps were then compared for 1.5°C, 2.0°C, and 3.0°C changes in global mean temperature above pre-industrial conditions. The exposure of global and vulnerable populations (i.e., those with an income of less than US$10 per day) was also investigated using three socioeconomic projections from the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs 1-3). The results of these assessments are presented at the global grid and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) region scales.

Multi-sector risk (MSR) maps for 1.5, 2.0, and 3.0°C climates [4]. Left column shows the full score range 0-9 (with transparency) and multi-sector risk score, MSR≥5.0, in full colour. Right column greyscale underlay is the SSP2 2050 vulnerable populations, with the MSR≥5.0 overlaid (only pixels > 10 vulnerable /km2), indicating the concentrations of exposed and vulnerable populations. Moderate and high multi-sector impacts are prevalent where vulnerable people live, predominantly in South Asia at 1.5°C, but spreading to East Asia, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa at higher warming.

Looking to understand the differences between the temperature targets in the Paris Agreement, the researchers found that the differences between 1.5 and 2.0°C were considerably larger than expected. The increase in exposed population to multi-sector risks almost doubles from 1.5 to 2.0 °C, and similarly doubles again at 3.0°C (from 1.5 to 2.7 to 4.6 billion). Both the scale of and the differences between these numbers underline the benefits of climate mitigation that will be experienced across the world, predominantly in developing regions.

Global population exposure and vulnerability [4]. Top (a) background is the total global population for SSP2 in 2050, while in the foreground, the fraction of exposed population (MSR ≥ 5.0, strong colors). Black shaded central segments are the exposed and vulnerable (E&V) population. For global exposure, global mean temperature is the dominant driver over SSP population. However, the bottom panel (b) shows how important socioeconomic development is for reducing the E&V population. It compares the E&V population for a 2.0°C climate in 2010 (background circle, currently 4.2 billion), with the projected E&V population in 2050 (foreground segments). While poverty reduction in SSP1 almost eradicates the E&V population in most regions by 2050, SSP3 results in substantial increases in Asia and Africa compared to 2010, due to high levels of inequality.

For populations vulnerable to poverty, the importance of targeted poverty eradication to reduce vulnerability is clear. The differences between the SSP1 (sustainability–affluent, low inequality, high education) and the SSP3 (rocky road–development failures, high inequality, low education) socioeconomic pathways, potentially alters the number of exposed and vulnerable population by an order of magnitude.  In all scenarios, the exposed and vulnerable population lie disproportionately in Asian and African regions (91-98%), with approximately half living in South Asia alone. As the most undeveloped region, Africa faces worse risks than most regions, especially in high inequality socioeconomic scenarios and high warming climate scenarios.

Climate mitigation alone will not be enough to reduce the exposure of the world’s poorest, who will still be vulnerable to impacts at 1.5°C. According to the researchers, action to rapidly reduce inequality, eradicate poverty, and promote proactive adaptation through mechanisms such as the Sustainable Development Goals, would greatly reduce the size of exposed and vulnerable populations, especially if co-benefits for climate mitigation also accrue.


[1] KC S & Lutz W (2014). Demographic scenarios by age, sex and education corresponding to the SSP narratives. Population and Environment 35 (3): 243-260.

[2] Piontek F, Mueller C, Pugh TAM, Clark DB, Deryng D, Elliott J, González FGC, Flörke M, et al. (2014). Multisectoral climate impact hotspots in a warming world. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 111 (9): 3233-3238.

[3] Satoh Y, Kahil T, Byers E, Burek P, Fischer G, Tramberend S, Greve P, Flörke M, et al. (2017). Multi-model and multi-scenario assessments of Asian water futures: the Water Futures and Solutions (WFaS) initiative. Earth’s Future 5 (7): 823-852.

[4] Byers E, Gidden M, Leclere D, Burek P, Ebi KL, Greve P, Grey D, Havlik P, et al. (2018). Global exposure and vulnerability to multi-sector development and climate change hotspots. Environmental Research Letters

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Improving the resilience of systems https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/systems-resilience/ https://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/systems-resilience/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 07:53:44 +0000 http://ar17.iiasa.ac.at/?p=4299

Systemic risk describes the likelihood of cascading failures in networks. Such risks arise in a broad range of different systems, such as power grids, ecosystems, supply chains, financial networks, disease dynamics, and transportation networks. The Systemic Risk and Network Dynamics (SRND) cross-cutting project at IIASA, aims to develop capabilities for analyzing systemic risks and to demonstrate how to assess and mitigate risks of cascading failures.

While most existing approaches to systemic-risk assessment are application-specific, similarities between systems offer great potential for cross-fertilization and synergetic analyses. Specifically, the project is developing cross-cutting measures of systemic risk, prognostic tools for assessing the likelihood and extent of cascading collapses under uncertainty, methods for reducing systemic risk through network design and control, and new approaches to the governance of systemic risk.

The project explores systemic risk in a broad range of applications from natural to human-made systems. In 2017 for example, researchers working on the SRND project explored the effectiveness of credit default swaps (CDSs) as an alternative or complementary instrument to the systemic risk tax studied earlier [1]. Over recent years, CDSs have acquired a negative reputation, as they are widely used for speculations, which are seen as exacerbating financial systemic risk. However, using an economic-financial model, the results of one study [2] showed that, by properly shifting financial exposures from one institution to another, a CDS market can be designed to rewire the network of interbank exposures in ways that make it more resilient to insolvency cascades.

The project also developed and used an agent-based model (ABM) simulating a national economy previously developed by its researchers, to estimate the indirect economic consequences of direct losses arising from floods. This model is the first to use a 1:1 scale to represent a country’s natural persons and legal entities, such as firms and banks, and to simulate their interactions. The ABM is currently calibrated for Austria, using data from national accounts, census data, and business information. It is driven by a probabilistic flood model, which uses the copula approach to predict flood losses while accounting for spatial dependencies. In this way, the researchers link environmental and economic processes in a nationwide simulation. Their analysis predicts that moderate floods induce positive indirect economic effects in the short and medium term, and small but negative indirect economic effects in the long term. In contrast, large-scale floods result in a more pronounced negative economic response in the long term. This approach allows the researchers to identify winners and losers in unprecedented detail across all economic sectors, as well as fiscal consequences for the government, both of which are crucial for managing extreme events resulting from climate change and natural disasters. A paper presenting these findings has been submitted for publication.

Furthermore, the project’s work on systemic risks in ecosystems is ongoing. Researchers working in this thematic area analyze how species losses propagate through food webs. In particular, they have developed what has become the world’s largest database of quantified food webs, and have used this information on ecosystems from around the globe to calibrate their models. This provides a unique basis for addressing controversies that have persisted in the ecological community for decades, concerning the question of which structural features make food webs more or less vulnerable to species loss. The researchers have expanded this resilience analysis from the ecosystem level to the species level.

Since its inception, the SRND project has been enabling the three participating IIASA programs to pool their methodological expertise on dynamic systems, risk analysis, and network theory. In light of this, a perspective paper is being prepared that presents an integrated approach using the copula methodology, for combining individual risks (in the form of probabilistic distributions) and systemic risks (in the form of copulas describing the dependencies among such distributions). This approach is especially useful when extreme events (occurring at low probabilities, but having high impacts) that affect agents in a system can lead to a tightening of the connections between some or all agents, as is often the case in, for example, financial systemic risks.


[1] Poledna S, Bochmann O, & Thurner S (2017). Basel III capital surcharges for G-SIBs are far less effective in managing systemic risk in comparison to network-based, systemic risk-dependent financial transaction taxes. Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control 77: 230–246.

[2] Leduc MV, Poledna S, & Thurner S (2017). Systemic risk management in financial networks with credit default swaps. Journal of Network Theory in Finance 3 (3): 19–39.


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