Introduction

Risk is based on the contrast between reality and possibility (Markowitz, 1990). Only when the future is seen as at least partially influenced by human beings) is it possible to prevent potential hazards or to mitigate their consequences (Ewald, 1993). The prediction of possible hazards depends on the causal relation between the responsible party and the consequences. Because the consequences are unwelcome, risk is always a normative concept. A society should avoid, reduce, or at least control risks. Increasing potentials of technical hazards and the cultural integration of external hazards into risk calculations increase the demand for risk science and risk management (Beck, 1986).

Thus, risks can be described as possible effects of actions, which are assessed as unwelcome by the vast majority of human beings.

'The risk classification and the derived risk management strategies are developed by the "German Scientific" Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)" in their annual report 1999 about global environmental risks. Ortwin Renn as a member and Andreas Klinke as associate researcher are basically responsible for the risk classification and the risk management strategies. See WBGU (19991. The parts concerning risk classification and risk management were written by Ortwin Renn and Andreas Klinke. Also cf. and Klinke and Renn (1999). The part on the application to environmental risks of substances was written by Gerald Busch, Friedrich Beese and Gerhard Lammel.

Risk concepts from various disciplines differ in the manner in which these effects of action are grasped and evaluated. Four central questions become the focus of our attention (Renn, 1992; 1997):

1. What are welcome and what are unwelcome effects? How do we define categories of damage and which criteria distinguish between positive (welcome) and negative (unwelcome) consequences of actions and events?

2. How can we predict these effects or how can we assess them in an intersubjectively valid manner? Which methodical tools do we have to manage uncertainty and to assess probability and damage?

3. Are we able to classify risks according to risk types? Which characteristics are relevant to evaluating risks besides the probability of occurrence and the extent of damage? Are there typical risk categories that allow us to order risks by priorities?

4. Which combination and which allocation of welcome and unwelcome effects legitimize rejection or approval of risky actions? Which criteria allow us an evaluation of risks?

To answer these questions and to be able to carry out such risk evaluations systematically, we propose a risk classification that summarizes specific risk types and determines particular strategies for rational management of risk types.

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