Adapting to increasing climate-related risks requires an evaluation of the decision points and pathways leading to or emerging from these decisions. The Pathways project analyses the key drivers and developments that influence these past and future dynamics.

Hydro-metrological events have caused substantial economic damage and social disruption in our society to date. These climate-related risks will become even more severe in the future as it is driven by changes in the frequency and magnitude of natural hazard events and an increasing exposure of buildings or infrastructure, as well as by the vulnerability and resilience development of residents and businesses. Nonetheless, disaster risk management decisions and their impacts are typically assessed as singular events, often downplaying the social and economic framework conditions, along with the alternative solutions against which they are taken. Recent research suggests employing the concept of iterative climate risk management (CRM) to align disaster risk management and climate change adaptation policy and practice, while paying due attention to the complex-dynamic nature of comprehensively tackling climate-related risks, along with the multiple perceptions and worldviews involved.


Pathways aims to fill this gap by analyzing the long-term development of past and future decisions. These arenas are characterized by, 1) competing interests from various policy areas; 2) ad-hoc decisions that often take precedence over strategic planning for long-term CRM; and 3) previous decisions providing carry-over, follow-up, or even lock-in effects for later decisions. Pathways paints a comprehensive picture of how local adaptation pathways were developed in the past, how these pathways led to specific decisions at particular points in time, and what impacts these choices had on community development with respect to the choices and pathways not taken. Pathways learns from the past to inform the future, aiming to provide capacity building at the local level. By understanding how earlier decisions enabled or constrained later decisions, the project aims to offer policy guidance for making robust decisions in local CRM.

Pathways has the following research objectives:

  • Reconstruct and evaluate how CRM is organized and planned at the local level and how it contributes to or undercuts national policy targets.
  • Assess historical and ongoing local adaptation pathways in terms of their socioeconomic, social cohesion/equity, climate risk, and demographic change consequences with the aim of informing future adaptation pathways to promote an efficient transition to a climate resilient society.
  • Provide novel insights into dynamic adaptation pathways to encourage the transformation of Austria into a climate resilient society through policy-science dialogue.

Methodological approach

This will be achieved by providing concrete insights into the socioeconomic, social, and policy implications of different CRM approaches in two Austrian study sites namely the KLAR! pilot regions – Ennstal (Styria) and Traisental/Fladnitztal (Lower Austria). Pathways applies a mixed-methods approach to integrate quantitative and qualitative social science research methods and to triangulate the research objectives from different perspectives. Semi-structured interviews with key CRM actors at various governance levels, geo-spatial analysis, secondary analysis of census data, and archival research jointly inform the reconstruction of past decision points and pathways. This approach allows researchers to test, compare, confirm, and control the collected data and the interpreted results from different perspectives, while avoiding narrow, oversimplified explanations. Building on the lessons learnt from the past, future pathways are co-designed with local stakeholders in formative scenario workshops.


Mochizuki, J. , Schinko, T. , Magnuszewski, P., Pajak, M., Bednar-Friedl, B., & Irshaid, J. (2018). Addressing energy transition gaps in climate and energy model regions of Austria through policy co-design. In: 19. Österreichischer Klimatag, 23 –25 April 2018, Salzburg, Austria.

Schinko, T. , Babcicky, P., Glas, N., Kabas, T., Kienberger, S., Leis, L., Lintschnig, M., Leitner, M., Mechler, R. , Ortner, S., & Zeil, P. (2018). Responsibility & Risk: Operationalizing comprehensive climate
risk layering in Austria among multiple actors (RESPECT).
In: 19. Österreichischer Klimatag, 23 –25 April 2018, Salzburg, Austria.