SAMSI Director Involved with Board on Environment Change and Society for National Research Council

November 12, 2012

Richard Smith, Director of the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute, (SAMSI) is participating on the Committee on Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change on Social and Political Stresses for the National Research Council. The committee released a report recently that looks at climate change and possible security threats that could arise from extreme weather events.

The report describes the need for the U.S. intelligence community to monitor warnings of a wide variety of security threats that may affect the United States. More and more scientific evidence is accumulating that the global climate is changing and as more extreme climate events are occurring, there are new stresses on societies around the world that are creating possible security risks for the United States. Many of these extreme climate events, such as hurricanes, heat waves, and droughts, are sometimes exceeding the capacity of affected countries to cope and respond to its citizens.

The connections between the harm suffered from climate events and the political and social outcomes of security concerns has had little attention from the scientific community. The report suggests that the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), along with various science and mission agencies work with the intelligence community to develop priorities for research on climate vulnerability and adaptation. The research should focus on items such as quantifying the likelihood of disruptive climate events, improving the understanding of the conditions under which climate-related natural disasters and disruptions of critical systems of life support do or do not lead to important security-related outcomes.

Committee members also suggest that the U.S. government should develop a systematic whole-of-government strategy for monitoring threats related to climate change.

“There is already a lot of concern about extreme weather events and their possible association with human-caused climate change. Of course we are most concerned about events that directly affect us, such as hurricanes or flooding in North Carolina, but this report shows why we also need to think about events that occur in distant parts of the world,” remarked Smith. The Board on Environmental Change and Society of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education released a brief on November 9, that was based on the report that the Committee on Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change on Social and Political Stresses, which was sponsored by the U.S. intelligence community.

In addition to Richard Smith, the committee members include: John Steinbruner (Chair), Department of Public Policy and Center for International and Security Studies, University of Maryland; Otis Brown, Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, North Carolina State University; Antonio Busalacchi, Jr., Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center and Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland; David Easterling, Scientific Services Division, National Climatic Data Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Kristie Ebi, Department of Medicine, Stanford University; Leon Fuerth, National Defense University, George Washington University and Project on Forward Engagement; Sherri Goodman, CNA Analysis and Solutions and CNA Military Advisory Board; Robin Leichenko, Department of Geography, Rutgers University; Robert Lempert, Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition, RAND Corporation; Marc Levy, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Earth Institute, Columbia University; David Lobell, Environmental Earth System Science, and Program on Food Security and the Environment, Stanford University; Richard Olson, Extreme Event Research and Department of Politics and International Relations, Florida International University, Paul Stern, Study Director; and Jo Husbands, scholar.

SAMSI has had several research programs covering statistical questions associated with climate change, including the 2009-10 Program on Space-time Analysis for Environmental Mapping, Epidemiology and Climate Change, the 2011-12 Program on Uncertainty Quantification: Climate Modeling, and the current 2012-13 Program on Statistical and Computational Methodology for Massive Datasets, which includes a working group on Environment and Climate. Extreme events and their impacts are a topic of major interest to statisticians and applied mathematicians as well as to climate scientists. SAMSI’s website has many presentations and links to some of the research that was conducted during the course of these programs, which is located at


SAMSI is one of eight mathematical institutes funded by the NSF’s Division of Mathematical Sciences, but is the only one that focuses on statistics and applied mathematics. Its mission is to forge a new synthesis of the statistical and applied mathematical sciences with disciplinary sciences to confront important data- and model-driven scientific challenges. It is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. SAMSI was founded in 2002. SAMSI is a partnership of the National Science Foundation with a consortium of Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the National Institute of Statistical Sciences.