A major focus of this research effort should be on understanding the connections between harm suffered from climate events and political and social outcomes of security concern. These connections, which are arguably the most important aspects of climate change from a national security perspective, have received relatively little scientific attention until now. The disaster research community, which has been the locus of research on the political effects of climate events, has not been well connected to the climate research community. Nevertheless, the available research strongly suggests some plausible hypotheses to examine, such as the one above concerning seven factors that may link climate events to political conflict and instability. Efforts should be made to test such hypotheses systematically against historical data and, as climate change proceeds, against experience. There is also a need for fundamental research on some of the concepts that link harm to political outcomes.

Although there is extensive research on some of the factors influencing the vulnerability of populations to singular climatic events of various kinds, further investigation is needed to identify factors that influence vulnerability to sequences of events, such as repeated extreme precipitation events or linked physical and biological events driven by climate processes, and to events that occur in distant regions and disrupt food, energy, or strategic-product supply chains. There is also a need to develop real-time, local-scale metrics of key economic, social, and political components of vulnerability, as discussed further in Chapter 6 and Appendix E.

This research will need to use various methods and approaches. For example, given the complex and contingent relationships between climate events and such consequences as socioeconomic stress and political instability, a systematic set of longitudinal case studies is needed of the effects of climate events, using an explicit and common conceptual framework. These case studies need to cover at least five years post-impact and to include cases where an extreme event or several events produce no evidence of major so-cioeconomic or political stresses (“null” cases). The cases should cover all hazard types, with a special subset on climate-related hazard types. There is also a need for relatively large-N quantitative studies that focus on types and levels of disruptive events; mediating variables related to vulnerability, coping, and response that track multiple time periods; and ensuing internal political unrest, instability, or violence. There is also a need for cross-national, cross-cultural, and longitudinal public opinion research related to pre-event risk reduction and post-event coping, emergency response, and recovery in order to gain understanding of the factors affecting perceptions of adequacy of response.

We note that the needed knowledge tends to come from different communities of experts, which will need to communicate with each other but do

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