Risk, uncertainty and insurance under climate change.

Coastal Land Management on the German North Sea


Project period: September 2018 – August 2022


Project description:

The impacts of climate change as well as the con­sequences of a­dap­ta­tions are un­certain. These uncertainties may be deeper than “risk”, where one knows at least the pro­babilities of potential future outcomes. In particular, there may be “Knightian un­cer­tain­ty”, where one knows the potential outcomes but not their probabilities.

In this inter- and transdisciplinary project, we study both risk and Knightian un­cer­­tainty of climate change im­pacts and adaptation options for the case of coastal land ma­nagement on the Ger­man North Sea, where people benefit from a suite of eco­sys­tem ser­vices which are subject to climate change and to alternative land ma­nage­ment op­tions. In this case, both risk and uncertainty are relevant for decision-mak­ing about lo­cal a­dap­tations to climate change. We com­bine economics with landscape eco­logy through mod­elling, and we include local stakeholders in the process of ana­lys­is and con­­clusion.

Our project has three aims:

(1)  To develop concepts for the eco­n­­omic va­luation of adaptation op­ti­ons and concepts of (natural or financial) insurance under Knight­­ian un­­cer­tain­ty.

(2)  To develop a pro­cedure to assess and comm­un­i­cate combined risk-and-un­cer­tainty throughout the full chain of analysis and im­­ple­men­tation – from basic science all the way to practical solution.

(3)  To identi­fy – in exchange with stake­holders – which po­ten­ti­al land management option is their pre­­ferr­ed way of addressing the risks and uncertainties of (ad­apting to) climate change. This in­clud­es identifying stake­­holders’ risk-and-un­cer­tain­ty preferences as well as po­tential synergies, con­­flicts and trade-offs bet­ween ecosystem services and between stakeholder groups.

These aims are achieved through a work program that comprises the following work packages:

·         Work package 1 (Uni Freiburg): Conceptualization and theoretical foundation of preferences, valu­a­ti­on and insurance under Knightian uncertainty;

·         Work package 2 (TU Braunschweig): Environmental modelling of eco­sys­tem services at the landscape level for different land management options, and un­cer­tain­ty analysis;

·         Work package 3 (Uni Freiburg): Empirical elicitation of risk and uncertainty preferences of stake­hold­ers;

·         Work package 4 (Uni Freiburg, with contribution from TU Braunschweig): Project management, integration of research results, organization of stake­hold­er relations, knowledge transfer.

Our project produces

(1)  an e­con­omic val­u­ation of the land man­age­ment op­ti­ons curr­ently dis­cussed in the case study region, in­clud­ing an identi­fi­ca­ti­on of po­tential con­flicts;

(2)  a transfer of results to stake­­holders, through work­shops and a policy brief for de­cision-makers;

(3)  6-7 publications in aca­demic jour­nals, 18 presentations at inter­na­tional conferences;

(4)  2 contributions to the in­ter­national Sum­mer School on Sus­­tain­­a­bi­lity Eco­nomics and 6 Bachelor or Master theses.   


Principal investigators:
Prof. Dr. Stefan Baumgärtner (Coordinator), University of Freiburg,
 Professorship of Environmental Economics and Resource Mangement

Prof. Dr. Boris Schröder-Esselbach, Technical University of Braunschweig, Professorship of Landscape Ecology and Environmental Systems Analysis


Detailed project information: for download (pdf) 


Contact persons: 

Prof. Dr. Stefan Baumgärtner

Prof. Dr. Boris Schröder-Esselbach


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