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Opportunities for Integration of Remote Sensing, Integrated Assessment, and Adaptation

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Session Description: 

A strength of Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) is their ability to rigorously simulate the interactions of a wide range of socioeconomic, environmental, and climatic systems. For example, IAMs can represent international trade in agriculture, forestry, energy, technologies, and other commodities. As climate change or other events decrease or increase production or affect demand for these commodities in one location, the models can represent the effects on international prices, resulting changes in production in other locations, and the impacts of changed flows of materials and wealth. IAMs are able to assimilate diverse remote sensing data sets related to atmospheric composition, emissions, land-cover and land-use change, and other characteristics. IAMs already use different types of remote sensing data, especially related to atmospheric and land surface conditions, urbanization, water resources, etc. However, most of the current IAMs represent these parameters and their interactions at a relative coarse spatial (i.e. global to regional) and temporal (i.e. years) resolution. The need for science-based information to guide decisions and policy matters of interest to society requires higher spatial and temporal resolution than are often captured by current and emerging remote sensing systems, therefore there are increasing opportunities to benefit from the added detail and accuracy afforded by remotely-sensed data sets to enhance the capabilities of IAMs.

We plan to convene a workshop with objectives of: 1) facilitating greater progress on the use of remotely sensed observations to enhance IAMs’ capabilities; 2) promoting the use of a combination of remotely sensed observations and IAMs to advance the Earth-Human systems science; and 3) fostering an active dialogue among experts from the science disciplines represented in 1 and 2, and invite participants who will depend on the resulting science-based information. The ultimate goal is to identify ideas, opportunities and effective practices that enable greater progress on all three objectives through effective collaborations and community building, and a combination of national and international programs and initiatives such as the National Assessments and Future Earth.

This community dialogue will explore the potential to more closely couple IAM research and remote sensing. It will do this by focusing on integrated assessments of global change issues with the intent to 1) expand the utility of current NASA and DOE observations and modeling programs that can be used for decision support; 2) identify important topics for new integrated analyses and assessment studies that support the National Climate Assessment and the US research agenda; and 3) bring end users of federal data and modeling systems into discussions with producers of these products to provide input to broader international agendas, such as Future Earth.

The framing for this discussion will be how observations, models, integrated analyses and assessments can be used more effectively to support decision making at multiple scales. We have chosen urban systems as the convening point for these conversations, because they integrate flows of energy, water, food, materials, products, and waste that occur at the scale of the city itself, but also at higher scales of aggregation such as the scale of food, water and energy systems, and their interplay that pertain to sustainability and security of urban systems both nationally and internationally. The international dimension is crucial, as the inputs to these flows often originate in other regions/countries in todays highly connected global system, and there is a widely-recognized need to be able to assess local risks in a global context and implications of global risks to national and local systems, particularly as they relate to cascading risks and supply-chain risks that impact energy, water and food security, health, manufacturing, etc. We believe these risks can be better characterized, anticipated, and more effectively handled if the interconnections are better understood. Identifying and understanding the most important interconnections requires a holistic approach to research, modeling and analyses and depends on active engagement of multiple disciplines and group of experts. For example, some of these risks originate with climate/environment impacts on water, energy and food systems, and primary effects (and secondary impacts) may be detectable and/or more predictable using a more effective combination of remote sensing observations and Earth-human systems models to assess the impacts of extreme events (droughts, floods, fires, etc.) at different time/space scales.

There are multiple potential audiences for the workshop and its outcomes; they include the federal agencies that fund observing, modeling, analysis and assessment research; the broader research community; and the decision-maker communities (including insurers) who are actively seeking more sophisticated ways to manage risk. We believe the workshop and its outcome will directly support the development of inputs to the US National Assessment about how to manage and frame the international context for future NCA assessment activities and also to provide input to the development of the research agenda for international research initiatives such as Future Earth. This diagram is a simplified version of our workshop structure.

Our intent over the duration of the workshop is to facilitate discussion and deliberations based on case studies and ongoing research activities that successfully integrate data, models, analyses and research that benefit and enable decision processes in urban systems, and then extrapolate from those case studies to other places and cases where similar successes are possible. We would then explore each of the areas in the diagram for opportunities for building, either from existing case studies to new applications, or from existing data on impacts, observations, etc., towards better opportunities for managing risks and opportunities. We believe the workshop can articulate a number of opportunities for end-to-end problem solving and research, expanding use of remote sensing in modeling and the use of IAMs in processing and interpreting remote sensing data, and multi-disciplinary science community building to advance the science of Earth-human systems to the benefit of our national strategic objectives for policy and practice. The resulting advances will contribute to improved research on impacts of and responses to global change, and thus to better characterization of national and international scale interactions in the IPCC, NCA, and other assessments.

Workshop Topic (s): 
  • Climate Variability and Change (including Climate Modeling)
  • Human Contributions & Responses