the predecessor to the current Political Instability Task Force (PITF), began working with a set of some 700 potential variables and over time reduced its final model to 4. (See Box 5-1; a list of many of the variables examined may be found in Goldstone et al., 2010.) Another example of reducing dimensionality can be found in the work of Cutter and colleagues (Cutter et al., 2003; Cutter and Finch, 2008) to develop an indicator of social vulnerability to environmental hazards. Using spatial and county-level data in the United States on 30 variables relevant to vulnerability (e.g., wealth, employment structure, demographic composition, and other factors known to influence a community’s susceptibility and response capacity), they determined that the variables could be represented by 7 underlying principal components, which were summed to create a single value for each county of a social vulnerability index (SOVI; Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, 2012).

Conclusion 6.2: Developing an adequate system for monitoring the conditions that can link climate events to national security concerns will require maintaining critical existing observational systems, programs, and databases; the collection of new data; the analysis of new and existing data; and the improvement of analytic systems, leading to a better understanding of the linkages over time and to improved indicators of key variables where quantitative indicators are appropriate and feasible to produce. It will typically require finer-grained data than are currently available. It will also require improved techniques for integrating quantitative and qualitative information.

We emphasize that improved understanding and monitoring of the various elements of climate vulnerability—a key link between climate events and security concerns—is an objective that the intelligence community shares with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and many other institutions at federal, state, local, and international levels.

The intelligence community cannot address these challenges alone. Addressing many of the new and enduring methodological problems is largely the province of the academic research community. The intelligence community needs to draw on this knowledge, as efforts like the PITF are doing, to address the interactions of climate events with traditional intelligence community concerns.


The United States, like other countries, lacks a national strategy for sustained, long-term observations for the purpose of informing analysis of relationships between environmental changes, including climate change,

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