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Integrated Assessment

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Major Topics:

Overview: CIG's approach to integrated assessment
Current projects

Links to related publications

Overview: CIG's approach to integrated assessment

The Climate Impacts Group has been working since 1995 to develop an integrated assessment of climate impacts on the PNW. The goal of the assessment is to understand the consequences of climate variability and climate change for the PNW. CIG's assessment examines climate impacts on four diverse, yet connected, natural systems of the PNW - water, forests, salmon and coasts - and the human socioeconomic and/or political systems associated with each. We strive to perform interdisciplinary, spatially-, temporally-, vertically-, horizontally-, and intermurally-integrated assessment of climate impacts on the PNW.

The CIG defines vertically integrated assessment of climate impacts as working through the causal chain of the regional consequences of fluctuations in climate, from climate dynamics, to climate impacts, to policy response strategies, for each one of the systems studied. This means identifying, characterizing, and, where possible, quantifying each component and link in the chain, from the fundamental characteristics of regional climate, to its consequences for the natural and human systems associated with that sector, and finally, the capacity of human systems to respond to changes or variations in climate. This is sometimes called an "end-to-end" assessment of climate impacts, from climate dynamics at one end to human dimensions at the other.

A vertical assessment of climate impacts may begin by examining only the one-way causal linkages in the vertical chain. However, important feedback pathways link the components of the system. As CIG's assessment work has progressed, we have expanded our focus to include an examination of some of these feedbacks.

In addition to being affected by climate, the natural resources - and the human systems - within these four sectors are strongly affected by one another. For example, timber clear-cutting in riparian zones may cause erosion, increased sediment supply to streams, and suffocation of incubating salmon eggs. The identification and elucidation of linkages and feedbacks among the sectors and their dependence on climate would constitute a "horizontal" assessment of climate impacts.

CIG's regional assessment is integrated in time - in the sense that we examine climate and its impacts on seasonal, inter-annual, inter-decadal, and millenial timescales - and in space, via our integration of climate impacts across the PNW, a region of diverse landscapes, ecosystems, and numerous political and economic provinces. CIG's work is highly interdisciplinary, requiring collaboration among researchers from the physical, biological, and social sciences. In general, the process of climate impacts research requires an analytical approach in which the research problem is formulated as a whole and the research team works to understand each piece of the puzzle within that framework.

An aim of CIG's regional assessment project is to increase the resilience of the PNW to climate variability and climate change. In order to achieve this goal, we must ensure that our understanding of regional patterns of climate variability, impacts, and potential coping strategies is used by planners, decision-makers, and resource managers throughout the PNW. To this end, CIG works to integrate regional stakeholders into the assessment as well-by directing research towards regionally relevant topics and problems, and by actively disseminating research results beyond the academic community. We also strive for active integration of academic research with planning and policy-making realities. This aspect of our work illustrates the final characteristic of CIG's assessment effort, that is, the integration of the academic and external communities, or "intermural" integration.


Current Projects

CIG (primarily Amy Snover and Ed Miles) continues to develop an integrative framework for synthesizing the group's work on the regional impacts of climate variability and change. The overall goal is to develop sound conceptual integrating principles that will help CIG:

  • perform more fully integrated vertical and horizontal assessment within and between all sectors and for the region as a whole, and
  • to place our impacts results in perspective - i.e., in the broader regional context. This work includes both qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Amy Snover is focusing on developing and testing methods of assembling CIG's research results into a coherent assessment of regional climate impacts. She is exploring heuristic methods of integrated assessment, developing a method of analysis that will enable a clear comparison of the impacts of climate variability, climate change, and anthropogenic stresses within and across sectors. This analysis will be expanded to provide CIG with the capacity to examine the sensitivity, adaptability, and vulnerability of each sector, and of the region, in an organized and elegant manner. We are also exploring the possibility of developing other innovative processes or methods for integration, e.g., participatory methods, such as scenario studies and policy exercises, and a regional integrated model.


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