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.
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.
Examples of Recent Projects
Recent projects under the integrated assessment framework have included:
Pacific Northwest Climate Assessment Report (2013)
CIG worked with research partners throughout the Northwest to produce Climate Change in the Northwest: Implications for Our Landscapes, Waters, and Communities. The report, published by Island Press in November 2013, assesses the state of knowledge about key climate impacts and consequences to various sectors and communities in the Northwest United States. It draws on a wealth of peer-reviewed literature, earlier state-level assessment reports conducted for Washington (2009) and Oregon (2010), as well as a risk framing workshop. As an assessment, it aims to be representative (though not exhaustive) of the key climate change issues as reflected in the growing body of Northwest climate change science, impacts, and adaptation literature now available. (Report PDF available here in mid-November 2013)
Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment (2009)
The CIG, in partnership with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State University, completed a major research effort to develop a first-ever climate change impacts assessment for Washington State. (Report PDF)