End of this page section.

Begin of page section: Contents:

Field of Research

Social Complexity and System Transformation (SoCo)

A rapid global transformation is needed to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goals and limit global warming to well below 2°C. This corresponds to reducing global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 7% per year and reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. These goals imply very radical changes in the way human societies produce and use energy and they would also require massive changes to, and reorganization of, economic sectors and social institutions. The aim of the working group is to identify interventions that are likely to lead to a global decarbonization in the next 30 years. The interventions operate on different time and governance scales and for example can be related to the rate of adoption of renewable energy production technologies, low carbon infrastructure development, changes in policies such as subsidy and taxation schemes, as well as social norm and life-style changes. We focus on interventions that are compatible with Sustainable Development Goals and analyse decarbonization pathways in different world regions together with their redistributive impacts.     

We address the following research themes:

  • Human agency in the Anthropocene – We strive to understand which actors and actor constellations have the agency to implement the critical interventions that are needed to reach an exponential decline in global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. We analyze structural changes that are needed to increase the agency of crucial actors and social groups;
  • Social tipping dynamics – We analyze nonlinear mechanisms that are needed to spark rapid social change processes and disruptive system changes. In the decarbonization context, social tipping elements refer to subdomains of the planetary socioeconomic system where the required disruptive change may take place and lead to a sufficiently fast reduction in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. We develop research methods, data gathering techniques, and new approaches in data analysis that can help us understand these dynamics;
  • Environmental inequalities – The climate crisis cannot be solved without addressing global inequalities. Many data sources show that top emitters with carbon-intensive lifestyles are responsible for a disproportionately large proportion of global life-style emissions. Carbon intensive lifestyles of top emitters are driving aspirations of other social groups. We analyze socio-metabolic profiles of different social groups and study policies and institutional changes that support low carbon life-styles;
  • Modelling human-environment system interactions – We develop new modelling approaches that help us understand the above dynamics, intervention opportunities, and their long-term impacts.


Research Group Leader

Univ.-Prof. Dr.

Ilona M. Otto

Phone:+43 316 380 - 8464

End of this page section.

Begin of page section: Additional information:

End of this page section.