Integrated assessment research at the Climate Impacts Group (CIG) focuses on integration in two dimensions:
- vertically, within a single sector such as water resources (integrating from climate dynamics to human response strategies), and
- horizontally, focusing on linkages across sectors (e.g., identifying how climate impacts on one sector affect processes within other sectors).
The CIG initially defined vertically-integrated climate impacts assessment as the identification of the causal chain that links climate dynamics, climate impacts, and policy response strategies within each sector studied by the group (currently water resources, forest ecosystems, marine/aquatic ecosystems, and coastal environments). This required identifying, characterizing, and, where possible, quantifying each link in the chain, from the fundamental characteristics of regional climate to its consequences for the natural and human systems associated with each sector, and, finally, the capacity of human systems to respond to changes or variations in climate.
However, the consequences of climate fluctuations for natural systems can best be understood in the context of all factors affecting those systems, including, for example, population growth, competition from invasive species, and land use change. Therefore, the CIG also evaluates the degree to which current and past human activities have altered or stressed natural systems and what those influences imply for the system’s resilience to climate fluctuations. The focus of CIG’s vertically integrated assessment research, therefore, has evolved into an assessment of vulnerability to climate variation and change in the context of multiple stresses.
The various sectors of CIG’s research have achieved varying degrees of integration. The most advanced integration is demonstrated within the water resources sector, where, for example, global climate models, a large-scale hydrological model, a reservoir operations model, and a Snake River water allocation model have been effectively linked to explore the economic consequences of climate change in the Snake River basin.
CIG is currently working to develop the capacity for fully integrated assessment. This requires:
- Developing a similar degree of integration for the other sectors,
- Beginning the quantitative analysis of the interactions among sectors, and
- Evaluating the likely impacts of proposed adaptation strategies.
Another significant component of CIG’s efforts comprise closely integrating the research done in the academic environment with the context, needs, and capacities of regional natural resource managers and decision makers. To this end, CIG also studies and publishes on the process of integrating these two communities.
For More Information
- Planning meetings and policy workshops on PNW climate impacts assessment
- Classes on integrated assessment at the University of Washington
- Facilitating world-wide sharing of integrated assessment methods and fostering development of integrated assessment research teams (e.g., Second International Conference on Climate Impacts Assessment)
- Contributions to national and regional policy-related studies (e.g., CIG contribution to National Assessment of Climate Impacts on the United States)