Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research addresses crucial scientific questions in the fields of global change, climate impacts and sustainable development.

Researchers from the natural and social sciences work together to generate interdisciplinary insights and to provide society with sound information for decision making.

The main methodologies are systems and scenarios analysis, modelling, computer simulation, and data integration.


Data concerning the past and present earth system as well as data on economic and social developments provide the basis for most research at PIK. Analysis of records and information constantly collected around the globe helps to understand the complex dynamics at play. This applies to flow processes in the Antarctic Ice Sheet as well as price trends in the European emissions trading system - both relate to climate.

The data gathered is fed into models – multidimensional systems of equations that simulate processes in the earth system or in economic systems. Models are mostly tested on the past. Whether they reliably replicate temperature gradation of past cold and warm periods can be verified through data from natural climate archives. These are for example ice cores from the polar regions or sediments from the coasts. Once the models are calibrated, they can be used to project future developments – always based on certain assumptions like the increase of CO2 emissions.

The results are scenarios: not predictions, but if-then statements. The uncertainties which are inherent in many scenarios are clearly spelled out according to good scientific practice.

Maintaining scientific excellence remains central in all the institute's activities, however pressing the social relevance and urgency of the institute´s research agenda. Most findings are published in international scientific journals after being thoroughly reviewed by researchers of other institutions. PIK itself is externally evaluated on a regular basis. It is only on the basis of such a comprehensive quality control that PIK provides its scientific findings to decision makers from politics and business.


52dfc30a748ddadaptation-decision-making 1 - climate adaptation.

Adaptation planning

Sharing methods, tools and approaches for adaptation decision-making.

Read more
coacch plants

CO-designing the Assessment of Climate CHange costs (COACCH)

The COACCH project will produce improved downscaled assessment of the risks and costs of climate change in Europe that can be accessed directly by research, business and policy makers.

Read more
climate change scenarios primer

Climate Change Scenario Primer

This interactive primer explains what climate change scenarios are and how they are connected to socioeconomics, energy and land use, emissions, climate change and climate impacts.

Read more

RAMSES adaptation in cities project

The RAMSES project is delivering quantified evidence of the impacts of climate change and the costs and benefits of a wide range of adaptation measures, focusing on cities.

Read more
Thumbnail Photo Credit: @David Stanley, Flickr, Creative Commons

Water implications of foreign direct investment in Ethiopia’s agricultural sector

Ethiopia is a country in which a lot of foreign land acquisition is occurring. This paper looks at the extent to which these investments also constitute significant acquisitions of water.

Read more

Vulnerability in Burundi

This case study describes an integrated vulnerability assessment undertaken on national and local scale in Burundi.

Read more

Living with climate change in India and the Philippines - A short film

Read more