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Focus Areas

Evaluating Climate Change Impacts

The impacts of climate change are as diverse and multifaceted as the sources of and solutions to it

Climate impacts are a critical part of analyzing and evaluating climate change.  The physical and economic impacts if further action is not taken are our primary motives for action.  Our experts understand that, without a clear understanding of the impacts we face, we cannot truly know the type and amount of climate action to take.  Our team works closely with our clients to identify the latest science and craft clear, concise ways to communicate the challenges posed by climate change to broad audiences.

The potential impacts of climate change on our health and well-being are still being enumerated and evaluated.  Climate impacts are as diverse and multifaceted as the sources of and solutions to climate pollution.  Climate change will pose multiple distinct and interacting hazards.  RTI’s integrated team of experts have a broad suite of technical and topical expertise to tackle these problems.  Our team of experts is dedicated to understanding exactly how climate impacts will be borne by different sectors of the economy.

Temperature

Seasonal and spatial patterns of average and extreme temperature are projected to change under future climate scenarios. RTI’s experts have studied how higher average temperatures can adversely impact crop yields, thermal electric power generation efficiency, and recreation and tourism.  We have developed econometric models to estimate climate amenity values, i.e., what people are willing to pay to experience milder winters or avoid hotter summers, and applied these values to assess the welfare effects of temperature changes in cities throughout the United States. The same model can also be applied to examine the impact of counterfactual climate scenarios on migration patterns. Our team also analyzes how temperature changes impact the value of urban forestry and ecosystem services, induce invasive species migration, and indirectly impact air quality and health.

Water Supply

Climate change is putting unprecedented pressure on water resources worldwide and available supplies are projected to decline in some of the most water scarce regions. To address this challenge in a sustainable manner requires advanced and holistic approaches that account for uncertainty and the complex interactions between climate and human demands. RTI develops solutions to help water supply organizations understand and manage their sources, risks, reliability, and supply alternatives to meet current and future water demands under the range of potential future climate conditions.

Flooding

Climate change is projected to increase the prevalence of inland flooding in areas where the frequency and intensity of rainfall events are projected to rise.  RTI’s water resources team has extensive experience in hydrologic and hydraulic modeling to simulate inland flood events and risks. Our team provides clients with flood forecast systems, flood inundation maps, and dam safety risk and consequences assessments. Coastal flooding will come from a mix of sea level rise, land subsidence, and more frequent and powerful storms.  RTI has developed and applied a risk-based modeling approach to analyze the expected costs and economic impacts (including residential properties) of sea level rise under a “business as usual” scenario. RTI’s Sea Level Rise tool uses downscaled probabilistic sea-level rise scenarios developed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and EPA. This Web application includes interactive web mapping and visualization tools that include analysis, spatial representation, and graphical visualizations of these various climate change scenarios.

Storm Damage

Climate change is responsible for the increased frequency of high-intensity storms such as category 5 hurricanes that bring destructive winds and flooding.  RTI’s economists have experience valuing public and private infrastructure such as roadways, utilities, and homes and our geospatial team has databased and visualized detailed information on physical assets that can be used to support projected storm damage valuations from wind and inundation.

Indirect impacts

Climate change will have a host of indirect impacts on our lives and livelihoods.  Our atmospheric scientists help our clients understand how higher temperatures may lead to poorer air quality.  Our forestry experts study how higher temperatures and drier conditions in certain areas increase wildfire risks.  Our ecologists and environmental economists study how temperature and other climate changes influence the spread of invasive plants, insects, and animals.  Our hydrologists understand how water quality depends on climate variables such as precipitation and temperature.