The Integrated Risk Governance Project (IRG) is a ten-year international research effort to improve the management of new environmental risks that exceed current coping capacities. The increased frequency of exceptional weather and climate hazards due to global warming has intensified disaster risks, demonstrated in meteorological observation data from all over the world.
Yet, societies face risks not only from weather conditions, but also due to stresses on infrastructure and the service capacity of the earth ecological system. International frameworks and national governments have expressed strong interest in improved risk governance systems, as reflected in the UN International Strategy on Disaster Reduction.
In a globally connected world, new opportunities are connected with new types of risks. They include climate change, pandemics, financial breakdowns, social inequality, nuclear proliferation, and more. These global systemic risks do not respect national boundaries, nor are they restricted to particular locations or systems. Instead, they are characterized by contagion and proliferation processes, frequently on the basis of dynamic network structures, with the result that a seemingly harmless local event is able to cause widespread systems breakdowns.
Systemic risks must be distinguished from conventional risks. The latter have been quite successfully addressed in most industrialized countries by combining insurance markets and public regulations, both relying on scientific theories of probability distributions and utility functions. In the face of systemic risks, however, adequate institutions and scientific understanding are missing.
The Integrated Risk Governance Project (IRG) intends to direct the attention to a number of concerns, including policies designed to:
- Reduce the vulnerability of individuals and communities to the impacts of extreme events;
- Establish and deploy response capabilities;
- Create institutional arrangements capable of protecting individuals from the impacts of extreme events.
- Develop integrated knowledge to better deal with global systemic risks.
It will undertake multi-discipline integration analysis to understand risk formation mechanisms and dissemination behaviour. It aims to identify mechanisms, trends, impacts, and the predictability of risks in the context of global change. IRG will develop risk assessment models and methods for integrated risk simulation.
IRG was launched by the IHDP (International Human Dimensions Programme), and became a core project of Future Earth in March 2015.