Climate, Climatic Change, and Society (CliCCS), Cluster of Excellence / Universität Hamburg

Apl. Prof. Dr. Jann Lay
2019 - 2025
Excellence Strategy
Cooperation partners

Prof. Dr, Detlef Stammer, Institute of Oceanography, Universität Hamburg, Germany (Spokesperson)

Prof. Dr. Anita Engels, Centre for Globalisation and Governance, Universität Hamburg (Co-Spokesperson)

Prof. Dr. Jochem Marotzke, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Germany (Co-Spokesperson)

Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at Universität Hamburg (IFSH)



Cluster of Exellence CliCCS

Research Questions

CliCCS aims to understand climate changes, taking into account internal variability, extreme events, and unexpected side effects, addressing the natural and social spheres as well as their interactions. Thus CliCCS’ overarching research question is: Which climate futures are possible and which are plausible?

Contribution to International Research

The Paris climate agreement from December 2015 has provided a powerful impetus not only for climate policy but also for climate research. To address the resulting new challenges, CLICCS will establish a long-term program spanning the range from basic research on climate dynamics and climate-related social dynamics to the transdisciplinary exploration of human–environment interactions.

Research Design and Methods

CliCCS consists of three intertwined research themes, equivalent to “research units”:

  • Theme A – Sensitivity and Variability in the Climate System
  • Theme B – Climate-Related Dynamics of Social Systems
  • Theme C – Sustainable Adaption Scenarios

Each theme is structured into multiple projects adressing in a manageable way sub-objectives of each theme. A central synthesis project will distill the results on possible and plausible climate futures, from research in CLICCS and elsewhere, into an annual Hamburg Climate Futures Outlook.

GIGA researchers participate in projects of Theme B (Dr. Miriam Prys-Hansen: B1, B2; Dr. Christian von Soest: B3; Apl. Prof. Dr. Jann Lay: B4). GIGA President Prof. Dr. Amrita Narlikar engages in the central synthesis project.

Project B1: Social Constructions of Climate Futures
The objective of the project is to explore, how climate futures are imagined through communication and how these imaginations travel across different arenas of communication: local, stakeholder, and media arenas. Climate futures are debated across a variety of social and cultural contexts including science, politics, the media, and everyday conversation. While these different spheres of communication are somewhat distinct, they are also connected in ways that shape understandings, imaginations and solutions that are adopted to address climate change. Debates in different world regions are both rooted in local cultural contexts and are also globally intertwined. To explore how discourses of climate futures are constructed, it asks the following key questions:

  • To whom do people in and across various communicative arenas attribute responsibility for actions to address climate change?
  • What kind of actions do they advocate for and reject?
  • How are imaginations of possible and plausible climate futures socially and culturally constituted and embedded in broader visions of the future and in belief systems?

Project B2: Dynamics of Climate Governance: Norms, Contestation, and Policies
The next few years of climate governance-in-the-making are critical: observing them closely allows us to identify and assess key drivers of long-term social trends towards or away from decarbonization, which form – individually and through their interaction at different governance scales – the backdrop of possible and plausible scenarios of future climate governance. The effectiveness of this process will crucially depend on the practice of the upcoming global review-resubmission cycles of the Paris agreement (2018-20 and 2023-25) and the local implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The project addresses both. It will focus on the following key drivers:

  • The (in)capacity of the UNFCCC to align the expectations and preferences of heterogeneous actors
  • The effects of regional norm conflicts and contestations on energy security and climate justice
  • The social and political dynamics of policy-instruments that shape NDC formulation and implementation.

Project B3: Conflict and Cooperation at the Climate-Security Nexus
The Project explores the climate–security nexus of interactions between climate change and dynamics of insecurity, such as social instability, threats to physical safety or violent conflict. The impact of extreme weather events on human security and social stability, linkages of climate-related water and food insecurity with migration and conflict events, as well as new geostrategic landscapes emerging in regional “climate hot spots” all showcase increasingly complex climate-security interactions. How societies respond to these interactions has repercussions for the possibility and plausibility of climate futures, which in turn affect security dynamics. To investigate the diversity of climate-security interactions, the project asks:

  • How are climate and security challenges interconnected in complex crisis constellations?
  • How do different societal groups and core actors deal with climate-change related security challenges and how do they imagine and prepare for the future?
  • What effects do the identified social coping strategies and practices have for the emergence of specific plausible and possible climate futures?

Project B4: From Company Responses to Decarbonization of the Economy
The project seeks to understand if, how fast, and by which mechanisms deep decarbonization of the economy can be expected within the next few decades. This is strongly influenced by social constructions of climate futures and by the dynamics of climate governance. We will create an innovative approach of long-term qualitative research on firms, their struggle with transformations towards a significant low-carbon business future, and the interactions of firms’ activities with the dynamics of regulation and financial markets. Looking at firms in selected countries, the project will identify key organizational triggers of and barriers to this transformation and analyze how changes in legal, political, economic or broader institutional frameworks accelerate or hinder deep decarbonization of firms, including the adoption and broad diffusion of technological innovations. The sources of these triggers and barriers will be tested in econometric studies using existing quantitative firm-level data sets. By scaling up the results to the global level, the project will provide a better understanding of the dynamics towards or away from deep decarbonization.

Research Team