Toward Rigorous Telecoupling Causal Attribution: A Systematic Review and Typology
Andrew K. Carlson, Julie G. Zaehringer, Rachael D. Garrett, Ramon Felipe Bicudo Silva, Paul R. Furumo, Andrea N Raya Rey, Aurora Torres, Min Gon Chung, Yingjie Li and Jianguo Liu
Telecoupled flows of people, organisms, goods, information, and energy are expanding across the globe. Causes are integral components of the telecoupling framework, yet the rigor with which they have been identified and evaluated to date is unknown. We address this knowledge gap by systematically reviewing causal attribution in the telecoupling literature (n = 89 studies) and developing a standardized causal terminology and typology for consistent use in telecoupling research. Causes are defined based on six criteria: sector (e.g., environmental, economic), system of origin (i.e., sending, receiving, spillover), agent, distance, response time (i.e., time lapse between cause and effect), and direction (i.e., producing positive or negative effects). Using case studies from the telecoupling literature, we demonstrate the need to enhance the rigor of telecoupling causal attribution by combining qualitative and quantitative methods via process-tracing, counterfactual analysis, and related approaches. Rigorous qualitative-quantitative causal attribution is critical for accurately assessing the social-ecological causes and consequences of telecouplings and thereby identifying leverage points for informed management and governance of telecoupled systems.