finding 17.2 : key-message-17-2

Climate change risk assessment benefits from a multisector perspective, encompassing interactions among sectors and both climate and non-climate stressors. Because such interactions and their consequences can be challenging to identify in advance, effectively assessing multisector risks requires tools and approaches that integrate diverse evidence and that consider a wide range of possible outcomes. (High Confidence)



This finding is from chapter 17 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

The scope of this chapter was developed to fill a gap in previous National Climate Assessments (NCAs), notably the risks that emerge from interactions among sectors. Previous NCAs have touched on this subject, for example the energy, water, and land use chapter in the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3). However, these assessments never included a chapter specifically focused on a general treatment of this topic. Emerging scientific research is highlighting the links between sectors and the potential complexity and implications of these interactions, from complex system dynamics such as cascading failures to management approaches and approaches to risk. These concepts were then incorporated into a detailed terms of reference for the chapter, outlining the scope and the general content to be included in the document.

The author team for this chapter was constructed to bring together the necessary diverse experience, expertise, and perspectives. Our authors brought expertise and experience in multiscale, multisector research and modeling, with a focus in specific sectors or sectoral combinations including critical infrastructure, energy–water–land interactions, and ecosystems. The authors also had expertise in complex systems science and previous experience in assessment processes.

The chapter was developed through technical discussions, a literature review, and expert deliberation by chapter authors through email and phone discussions. The team evaluated the state of the science on the analysis of sectoral interdependencies, compounding stressors, and complex system science. Case studies were drawn from a range of sources intended to represent the key themes in the chapter.

Description of evidence base:

Recent climate change assessments (e.g., Oppenheimer et al. 2014, Houser et al. 20150ea6d723-5df9-4b45-8d5f-be269119ccf8,bbca6337-718b-4289-b6e7-0a2f6c1cb8f1) emphasize that a multisector perspective expands the scope of relevant risks and uncertainties associated with climate change impacts. Assessing these risks requires attention to multiple interacting sectors, geographic regions, and stressors, such as 1) interactions in the management of water, land, and energy (see Box 17.3), or 2) spatial compounding of impacts if, for example, multiple infrastructure systems fail within a city (see Box 17.1). Risk assessment also requires attention to indirect and long-distance climate change impacts, for instance resulting from human migration or conflict.0ea6d723-5df9-4b45-8d5f-be269119ccf8,d5216e42-45ce-457b-bda8-b2e445d23c0d Analyses of historical events (see Box 17.5), evaluations of statistical risk (e.g., Carleton and Hsiang 2016a73835ed-0558-4fe3-bccf-e61b4014ed63), and process-based modeling projections are some of the methods demonstrating these complex interactions across sectors, scales, and stressors.

Different tools and approaches are required to assess multisector risks. Approaches can be applied to integrate diverse evidence, combining quantitative and qualitative results and drawing from the natural and social sciences and other forms of analysis.0bf999f3-8291-493a-bf19-525a26af5125,42c619a3-768b-4a22-9dd6-73b52af9426c,df27d677-4c3e-49ee-87ef-4d46c1e47087 For instance, models and expert judgment have been used together to inform our understanding of future sea level rise,843b8feb-de6f-42be-88f9-657915e75601 and scenarios can also be used to explore preparedness across possible futures.ae138b1a-a619-4312-a671-0f671a85662b,c7f36e83-1f30-491a-b7b8-79cfc181d011,9c909a77-a1d9-477d-82fc-468a6b1af771

New information and remaining uncertainties:

For interdependent systems affected by multiple stressors, the number and complexity of possible interactions are greater, presenting deeper uncertainties. It is often difficult or impossible to represent all relevant processes and interactions in analyses of risks, especially quantitatively. For example, quantitative projections can evaluate probabilities of well-understood sectoral interactions but will be limited by processes or parameters that are poorly known or unknowable. This is why the integration of diverse evidence and attention to deeper uncertainties are important in multisector risk assessment.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

We have high confidence in this Key Message because there is high agreement that a multisector perspective alters risk assessment, as is reflected in recent climate change assessments. However, the evidence basis for multisector evaluations is emerging.

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