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Monitoring Climate Change Impacts: Metrics at the Intersection of the Human and Earth Systems
Metric: A category that reflects a combination of individual measurements and that can be used to provide a large-scale view of a system and gauge system performance. It may be quantitative or qualitative (NRC, 2005).
Resilience: A capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.
Vulnerability: The degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes.
As a technical document, this report is intended to be used by analysts in the intelligence community, as well as researchers, as they delve more deeply into climate change and its ramifications worldwide (Box 1-2). The process of prioritizing the metrics (described in Chapter 3) was developed with this audience in mind. The types of measurements mostly focused upon are generally those obtained by remote sensing; however, there are some cases for which in situ measurements are particularly useful. The committee recognizes that the metrics suggested in the report are not perfect, but hopes they will serve as a catalyst for further thinking.
As an informational foundation for this study, eight groups (“topical panels”) were assigned the task of developing lists of measurements, metrics, and indicators of environmental sustainability in their respective areas of expertise. Two workshops were held, which included invited presentations and breakout sessions, from which preliminary lists and supporting information were generated. (See Appendix B for more information on the guidance provided to the panels. Note that the format of the tables and definitions evolved over time as the committee did its work.) Committee judgment formed the basis from which the tables in Chapter 3 were constructed.
Background for This Study:Science in Support of the Intelligence Community’s Work on Climate Change
During the 1990s, a program known as MEDEA brought together environmental scientists and members of the intelligence community to further understanding of environmental change. Prominent scientists were granted security clearances to participate in a review of national security systems, data, and archives with the objective of identifying scientifically relevant materials. Through analyses of classified data and systems, the scientists worked with the intelligence community and the White House on several emerging environmental issues, including global climate change. The MEDEA program helped justify the eventual declassification and release of scientifically important, high-resolution imagery from the archives, which were subsequently used by the scientific research community to complement publicly available, but less detailed, imagery of several environmental systems. These data have since been applied across a broad spectrum of the environmental sciences including oceanography, geologic