World in Transition: Strategies for Managing Global Environmental Risks

Flagship Report 1998
German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)
Springer Verlag, Berlin, 2000

Global risk potentials and their interplay with economic, social and ecological processes of change have emerged as a challenge to the international community. Never before has human intervention in nature assumed global dimensions. This has been driven on the one hand by a growing global population, particularly in developing countries, and on the other hand by rising human aspirations in conjunction with specific patterns of production and consumption, above all in industrialized countries. By presenting this report, the Council hopes to contribute constructively to an effective, efficient and objective management of the risks of global change. The approach taken by the Council is first to classify globally relevant risks and then to assign to these classes of risk both established and innovative risk assessment strategies and risk man-agement tools. On this basis, management priorities can be set. However, the Council notes that it is impossible to safeguard against all global risks, particularly as exploiting opportunities will always entail taking risks.

To keep the risks to the international community posed by global change as small as possible, the Council recommends a number of cross-cutting strategies for international policies. These include worldwide alignment of liability law, creation of environmental liability funds, establishment of a United Nations Risk Assessment Panel and implementation of strategies aimed at reducing vulnerability to risk. The scientists further put the case for improving research promotion and maintaining basic research that is free of vested interests.



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