Risks to Human and Environmental Security, Well-Being and Welfare: What are the ‘Right’ Indicators, How Are They Measured and Why Are They Only Rarely Used to Guide Policies?

  • Hartmut Sommer


This work starts with the classification of different forms of individual and systemic risks and their basic measurement. Thereafter, perceptions and attitudes towards risks will be analyzed. Reasons for the over- or underestimation of risks, basic risk behavior (risk seeking versus risk avoiding personalities and strategies) as well as recommendations to overcome possible misperceptions will be forwarded. The actual problems of non-sustainable development in the world are partially due to ill-conceptualized and misleading indicators for risks. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is used as one key objective for government policies in nearly all countries. Its deficiencies are well known and scientific consensus exists that other indicators are needed. Such sets of sustainability-oriented indicators and conformingly derived proposals for change exist since many years and will be resumed. Reasons why these indicators are only rarely used in official politics need to be discussed: errors, scandals, biased approaches (‘wishful thinking’), complex models, false forecasts or simply missing knowledge about the future and bad data analysis. Examples from economy, ecology and demography are presented. Measures needed to overcome at least some of these deficiencies will be proposed claiming for risk management systems, robust decision making, and ethical principles guiding individual and collective behavior.


Risks Well-being Climate change Forecasts Scenarios 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hartmut Sommer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Life Sciences and EngineeringUniversity of Applied Sciences BingenBingenGermany

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