Federal Coordinating Lead Authors:
Leah Nichols, National Science Foundation
Robert Vallario, U.S. Department of Energy
Chapter Lead:
Leon Clarke, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Chapter Authors:
Mohamad Hejazi, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Jill Horing, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Anthony C. Janetos, Boston University
Katharine Mach, Stanford University
Michael Mastrandrea, Carnegie Institution for Science
Marilee Orr, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Benjamin L. Preston, Rand Corporation
Patrick Reed, Cornell University
Ronald D. Sands, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Dave D. White, Arizona State University
Review Editor:
Kai Lee, Williams College (Emeritus) and the Packard Foundation (Retired)
USGCRP Coordinators:
Kristin Lewis, Senior Scientist
Natalie Bennett, Adaptation and Assessment Analyst

Sector Interactions, Multiple Stressors, and Complex Systems

The world we live in is a web of natural, built, and social systems—from global and regional climate; to the electric grid; to water management systems such as dams, rivers, and canals; to managed and unmanaged forests; and to financial and economic systems. Climate affects many of these systems individually, but they also affect one another, and often in ways that are hard to predict. In addition, while climate-related risks such as heat waves, floods, and droughts have an important influence on these interdependent systems, these systems are also subject to a range of other factors, such as population growth, economic forces, technological change, and deteriorating infrastructure (Figure 17.1).

Assessing the risks associated with climate change requires us to acknowledge that understanding the risks to individual sectors is important but may not always be sufficient to characterize the risks to interdependent systems. Improved understanding of the complex dynamics that arise from interactions among systems is therefore essential to understand risk and manage our response to a changing climate. Characterizing the nature of such interactions and building the capacity to model them are important research challenges.


Figure 17.1: Complex Sectoral Interactions

Figure 17.1: Sectors are interacting and interdependent through physical, social, institutional, environmental, and economic linkages. These sectors and the interactions among them are affected by a range of climate-related and non-climate influences. Sources: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Arizona State University, and Cornell University.


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