Recommendation 6.1: One of the objectives of the recommended whole-of-government effort to inform choices about adapting to and reducing vulnerability to climate change should be to build the scientific basis for indicators in this domain.

This effort would support activities by the research communities involved in assessing exposures and vulnerabilities to environmental change to identify a relatively small number of key variables relevant to the social and political consequences of climate events. The effort of the climate science community to identify a small number of “essential climate variables” suggests the kind of process that could be used.

Recommendation 6.2: The U.S. government should begin immediately to develop a systematic and enduring whole-of-government strategy for monitoring threats connected to climate change. This strategy should be developed along with the development of priorities and support for research.

The monitoring should include climate phenomena, exposures and vulnerabilities, and factors that might link aspects of climate and vulnerability to important security outcomes, and it should be applicable to climate issues globally. It should also include making and periodically updating priority judgments about when and where high-resolution monitoring is needed. Analysis will require the integration of quantitative indicators with traditional security and intelligence analytic methods.

The value of monitoring efforts is likely to increase over time because of improvements in monitoring systems and because potentially disruptive climate events are expected to increase in frequency and intensity in the future. Existing open-source monitoring systems that may provide useful information on key variables should be periodically examined for their potential utility, but with critical attention paid to indicator selection, data reliability and validity, and cross-case and cross-national comparability.

For the great majority of existing and potential indicators, the required spatial and temporal resolution is finer than what is currently available. High-resolution monitoring will be especially important for highly significant and highly vulnerable locations. The appropriate level of spatial and temporal resolution for indicators varies, however, with the substantive domain. In setting priorities for indicator development and improvement, the intelligence community should take into account the gaps between the existing and the desired resolution and should invest in improved resolution of those indicators judged to be the most needed and the most useful in places of concern.

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