finding 16.2 : key-message-16-2

The impacts of climate change, variability, and extreme events can slow or reverse social and economic progress in developing countries, thus undermining international aid and investments made by the United States and increasing the need for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (likely, high confidence). The United States provides technical and financial support to help developing countries better anticipate and address the impacts of climate change, variability, and extreme events.

This finding is from chapter 16 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) is the first U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) to include a chapter that addresses the impacts of climate change beyond the borders of the United States. This chapter was included in NCA4 in response to comments received during public review of the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3) that proposed that future NCAs include an analysis of international impacts of climate change as they relate to U.S. interests.

This chapter focuses on the implications of international impacts of climate change on U.S. interests. It does not address or summarize all international impacts of climate change; that very broad topic is covered by Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC; e.g., IPCC 2014c390e13f-8517-40a9-a236-ac4dede3a7a0). The U.S. government supports and participates in the IPCC process. The more focused topic of how U.S. interests can be affected by climate impacts outside of the United States is not specifically addressed by the IPCC.

The topics in the chapter—economics and trade, international development and humanitarian assistance, national security, and transboundary resources—were selected because they illustrate ways in which U.S. interests can be affected by international climate impacts. These topics cut across the world, so the chapter does not focus on impacts in specific regions.

The transboundary section was added to address climate-related impacts across U.S. borders. While the regional chapters address local and regional transboundary impacts, they do not address impacts that exist in multiple regions or agreements between the United States and its neighbors that create mechanisms for addressing such impacts.

The science section is part of the chapter because of the importance of international scientific cooperation to our understanding of climate science. That topic is not treated as a separate section because it is not a risk-based issue and therefore not an appropriate candidate to have as a Key Message.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) put out a call for authors for the International chapter both inside and outside the Federal Government. The USGCRP asked for nominations of and by individuals with experience and knowledge on international climate change impacts and implications for the United States as well as experience in assessments such as the NCA.

All of the authors selected for the chapter have extensive experience in international climate change, and several had been authors on past NCAs. Section lead assignments were made based on the expertise of the individuals and, for those authors who are current federal employees, based on the expertise of the agencies. The author team of ten individuals is evenly divided between federal and non-federal personnel.

The coordinating lead author (CLA) and USGCRP organized two public outreach meetings. The first meeting was held at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, on September 15, 2016, as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Adaptation Community Meetings and solicited input on the outline of the chapter and asked for volunteers to become chapter authors or otherwise contribute to the chapter. A public review meeting regarding the International chapter was held on April 6, 2017, at Chemonics in Washington, DC, also as part of USAID’s Adaptation Community Meetings series. The USGCRP and chapter authors shared information about the progress to date of the International chapter and sought input from stakeholders to help inform further development of the chapter, as well as to raise general awareness of the process and timeline for NCA4.

The chapter was revised in response to comments from the public and from the National Academy of Sciences. The comments were reviewed and discussed by the entire author team and the review editor, Dr. Diana Liverman of the University of Arizona. Individual authors drafted responses to comments on their sections, while the CLA and the chapter lead (CL) drafted responses to comments that pertained to the entire chapter. All comments were reviewed by the CLA and CL. The review editor reviewed responses to comments and revisions to the chapter to ensure that all comments had been considered by the authors.

Description of evidence base:

The link between climate variability, natural disasters, and socioeconomic development is fairly well established (e.g., UNISDR 2015, Hallegatte et al. 201706cddfdc-2771-4803-98cf-31136413ac1f,4afe2318-f2cd-4af5-8607-5b251d28a0ba), though some uncertainties about this relationship remain.c7600263-abd3-4f7e-aee9-d3beb37487f8 Humanitarian disasters driven by climate impacts have led to specific changes in U.S. development assistance. For instance, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) was created after the droughts that contributed to mass starvation in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s. More recent crises in the Horn of Africa prompted major investments in resilience at the USAID.fab8a70c-17f4-4d0a-80d8-25e8063e9c96

The relationship between climate change and socioeconomic development has been assessed extensively by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change through its assessment reports (e.g., IPCC 2014c390e13f-8517-40a9-a236-ac4dede3a7a0). There is some research on the economic costs and benefits from climate change (e.g., Nordhaus 1994, Stern et al. 2006, Estrada et al. 2017, Tol 201867a3627d-c737-41bf-b6cb-f730ce3dfd58,11481bc3-26e1-4e99-89f9-9b441801fcb6,a6b06550-5126-42e9-b461-8244dc7b1508,596e5e36-2692-44df-943c-88681c51f60c). However, it can be difficult to separate climate impacts on a sector from the role of other impacts, such as weak governance (Ch. 17: Complex Systems).

The United States has long invested in socioeconomic development in poorer countries with the intention of reducing poverty and encouraging stability. Additionally, stable and prosperous countries make for potential trading partners and a reduced risk of conflict. These ideas are presented in numerous U.S. development, diplomacy, and security strategies (e.g., U.S. Department of State and USAID 2018, 2015b77adb22-aea6-4397-9dab-0a67ee992606,c7f8a0a1-2508-4c4b-a5fd-99e943999111). There is ample evidence that the United States has invested in measures to reduce climate risks and build resilience in developing countries (e.g., USAID 2016685bf347-03c2-44ba-817f-919966c6face). However, this chapter does not assess the efficacy of these efforts.

New information and remaining uncertainties:

Climate change adaptation is an emerging field, and most adaptation work is being carried out by governments, local communities, and development practitioners through support from development agencies and multilateral institutions. Evaluations of the effectiveness of adaptation interventions are generally conducted at the project level for its funder, and results may not be publicized. Some research is emerging on the economic benefits of adaptation interventions (e.g., Hallegatte et al. 2016, Chambwera et al. 2014310326ad-14fc-408e-aaf8-61a4e44e33fc,76d1846f-82d5-454b-974b-9a51954a05da). Over time, it is likely that more activities will be implemented, more evaluations will be conducted, and the evidence base will grow.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

There is high confidence in the Key Message. There is ample evidence that the impacts of climate variability and change negatively affect the economies and societies of developing countries and set back development efforts. There is also evidence of these impacts leading to additional U.S. interventions, whether through humanitarian or other means, in some places.

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