It is important to develop and validate monitoring systems now in order to have baseline data for future studies of climate event impacts and for social and political stress analyses. Validation is particularly important for emerging monitoring technologies, such as those involving sophisticated data mining algorithms (e.g., of Internet postings) and remote observations that are overlaid on geographic information systems. Such techniques may produce outputs that catch the eye and are very impressive on first glance, but they are sometimes closely held by their developers and difficult to validate, especially if they involve infrequent events. Indicators and monitoring results should be interpreted with caution until these techniques develop a record of validation.

Organized international collaborations with potentially affected societies and governments and the open sharing of data will be important aspects of developing the needed monitoring systems. Such collaborations are likely to play a crucial role in gaining acceptance of higher-resolution monitoring at critically vulnerable locations. The collaborations are also likely to benefit many governments and international organizations that have a stake in reducing the risks of climate change to human and international security; the U.S. government in particular can benefit from data-gathering efforts in and by other countries. Of course, U.S. government agencies will continue to gather some kinds of information that will not be openly shared, and there will be questions about which data and information-gathering methods can and should be openly shared. Depending in part on how interagency collaborative relationships are structured and managed, there could also be suspicions related to the involvement of U.S. intelligence agencies in international information-gathering efforts related to security. Such issues will need to be addressed in ways that we have not had the opportunity to consider in this study. Nevertheless, the benefits of open, international data development and sharing should be taken seriously as work on monitoring systems proceeds. These benefits include the development of compatible concepts, databases, and indicators across countries, which help speed scientific progress and improve the ability to learn from experiences in other countries.

Improving the Capacity to Anticipate Security Threats

Recommendation 6.3: The intelligence community should establish a system of periodic “stress testing” for countries, regions, and critical global systems regarding their ability to manage potentially disruptive climate events of concern. Stress tests would focus on potentially disruptive conjunctions of climate events and socioeconomic and political conditions.

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