finding 17.3 : key-message-17-3

The joint management of interacting systems can enhance the resilience of communities, industries, and ecosystems to climate-related stressors. For example, during drought events, river operations can be managed to balance water demand for drinking water, navigation, and electricity production. Such integrated approaches can help avoid missed opportunities or unanticipated tradeoffs associated with the implementation of management responses to climate-related stressors. (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 literature has documented that the management of interacting infrastructure systems is a key factor influencing their resilience to climate and other stressors. A range of studies have argued that the complexity of institutional arrangements in mature, democratic economies like the United States poses challenges to the pursuit of climate adaptation objectives and sustainability more broadly.747e6b30-6afc-4520-af4b-660389e167ba,fe4e06c1-b8d0-44fc-8892-44c20b60ab6a,9582d876-1c21-4d18-995e-f69ace96ae3b,6f504af2-a3a0-46c3-a8bd-9f5f266bd5bf,9f316b11-0ea5-4aff-b638-9bb9737cd7b6 The complexity associated with interacting systems of systems poses significant challenges to integrated management.9f316b11-0ea5-4aff-b638-9bb9737cd7b6 The allocation of authority and responsibility for system management across multiple levels of government as well as between public and private sectors often contributes to decision-making by one actor being enabled or constrained by other actors.747e6b30-6afc-4520-af4b-660389e167ba,9582d876-1c21-4d18-995e-f69ace96ae3b

The interdependencies among systems reflect the potential value in the development of more integrated management strategies.747e6b30-6afc-4520-af4b-660389e167ba This concept of integrated management is reflected in existing literatures, particularly those associated with integrated water resources management f43680e8-feb9-4e43-aaa3-26b843935b35,a628fcb3-4e2a-4f3e-b6f2-1bce04b5d6df,af78baf1-65dd-4ce4-81fb-aed9df71f496,b92ffe4f-1264-4b7a-8a71-1692ef35cda2 and integrated infrastructure planning.e065f634-1a56-417f-b541-f90862b11623,51081935-d488-42bd-896f-f188b30e951e,5e9e38bc-040a-4201-a2c0-62d9916f7089 Such studies often address integration within sectors or systems, with less consideration for integration between or among systems. This has the potential to lead to missed opportunities for improving management practice.747e6b30-6afc-4520-af4b-660389e167ba However, assessments of energy,66fa5de6-5f51-4d35-a6dc-ecc243575ac6 urban infrastructure,d2f3853a-5f20-4132-92c8-57da1b4d95fc and coupled energy–water–land552cc5f5-a7b3-4a64-8bee-98ae0cced150 systems conducted as part of NCA3aa1fec1f-b5c3-48b8-b17e-ca88da35eb4c identified a range of interdependencies across multiple sectors (see Dawson 201538a397d4-812d-4af6-98fb-8f74dd8632ac).

A range of strategies have been proposed for enhancing the capacity to manage system interdependencies and climate change risk. Significant effort has been invested in understanding and modeling system dynamics to enhance capabilities for risk and vulnerability assessment. These efforts have largely focused on physical infrastructure systems, infrastructure networks, and the potential for cascading failures.d5343adc-cad7-4ec5-89db-02b4e7432c1a,a90f4a5c-16d6-4fcb-81d7-50cd599de443,3a3f902e-2ac4-4692-a799-5847739302e0,08dd50c9-5530-4ab3-9e11-8085fcb24889 Such capabilities help to identify what can be monitored in complex systems to enhance situational awareness, anticipate disruptions, and increase resilience.9278107f-e3d4-4d4b-92db-a72057d3a5fa,d9b6e3b6-cf36-448e-af91-fb6cf640e007,b7390f11-3506-4d02-a132-9fe9f479e960

There is ample evidence of comanagement of interdependent systems, often as a function of resource assurance and/or contingency planning. For example, the use of water for electricity generation (hydropower or cooling in thermal generation) involves regulatory constraints around water use as well as operational decision-making regarding water management.747e6b30-6afc-4520-af4b-660389e167ba,552cc5f5-a7b3-4a64-8bee-98ae0cced150,e7635eef-41d4-4fa2-b11b-5db9f87ce0fd,3f3b736d-974d-42a5-939d-c52f515a2b35,25c299b4-5144-4719-88ec-0e24635d8132,8c12cc4c-3448-4055-b7a2-e03ead1c2572 These interactions have been a major focus of studies addressing the climate–water–energy nexus. Meanwhile, emergency managers as well as agricultural, commercial, and industrial supply chains often develop contingency plans in the event of disruptions of transportation, telecommunications, water, and/or electricity.25c22917-41da-4f27-82db-1d40c3b4f677,f3b4b2c2-f1d6-4dfb-a02f-43714c47ffc3,63b68419-6ab4-4917-93dd-d9ac9a3572c2,789d82f1-e7af-441d-b991-127e2cb90926,13d048c9-77d7-4bbb-beeb-ee49842d2719

A key element of such planning is to build redundancy and flexibility into system operations.e70ad283-4e8b-4a9e-8279-6f7f830f98f5 Evidence suggests that adding flexibility or robustness to systems or transforming systems such that they interact or behave in fundamentally different ways can increase construction, maintenance, or procurement costs.9a6c7a87-5c0f-4d64-904c-c707f68f2115,47e41b82-b7e0-470a-a423-5d9f60aec415,6ea115a7-00dc-4ac4-816d-270841586bba However, a number of studies exploring the valuation of resilience actions and investments have concluded that the benefits of resilience interventions can be significantly greater than the costs, provided the long-term mitigating effects of the intervention are factored in.97189668-36ce-4b55-9550-f10a6ebdea24,9eb51e22-e5c8-4f74-96b9-4525b48135fd,4716cc4e-32cb-47cd-aa8c-4dded908b214

Given the complexity of governance systems, the responsibility for the design and implementation of such strategies for integrated management rests on a broad range of actors. Over the latter part of the 20th century, the privatization of infrastructure, including energy, telecommunications, and water, transferred infrastructure management, responsibility, and risk to the private sector.18325d52-df0d-4729-9e02-c0b0e8945fef Nevertheless, local, state, and federal governments continue to have critical roles in regulation, risk assessment, and research and development. In addition, many institutions, organizations, and individuals either have infrastructure dependencies or influence the dynamics, operations, investment, and performance of infrastructure.57da6191-41b4-48a5-8fe6-0d55fd26a01b The increasing interconnectedness of both infrastructure and the people who use and manage that infrastructure is leading to both new challenges and opportunities for comanaging these systems, particularly in urban areas.c75e24cb-498e-400b-8f25-a47526666cf5,6f4b0d29-f2b3-4bef-9c25-8b3bbf1fea9b,3e254999-7a58-44f8-9cc8-adfdf88e240f A growing literature is identifying opportunities to enhance consideration of human health and other benefits in the design of urban landscapes and infrastructure.f1e633d5-070a-4a7d-935b-a2281a0c9cb6,e51f35c4-b5ba-4e95-8090-582e2897754b,0b030246-6546-4656-bae4-f17ae4c14416,17a66785-de41-4dde-a32a-ed1d3f3a9d94,ceba4136-3c90-4422-a4c9-687f58ee0543

New information and remaining uncertainties:

The dominant uncertainties associated with the management of climate risks and system interdependencies include understanding indirect effects and feedbacks between systems, particularly with respect to predicting system responses. Technological change could have significant implications for the resilience, interconnectedness, and responses of systems to climate-related stressors and other disturbances. Such change could increase the complexity of integrated management with implications that could be positive or negative with respect to vulnerability. In addition, the future evolution of governance and regulatory dimensions of infrastructures systems, as well as consumer choices and behavior, are associated with irreducible uncertainty, largely because they involve choices yet to be made.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

There is high agreement and extensive evidence that institutional arrangements and governance are critical to the management of systems and their interdependencies. This finding is reflected in scientific assessments, modeling studies, and observations of system responses and performance, as well as in theories emerging from complex systems science. Furthermore, a history of management practice associated with water, energy, transportation, telecommunications, food, and health systems that spans decades to centuries provides evidence for the importance of system interdependencies. Thus, there is high Confidence in this message.

References :

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