ESSIC Assistant Research Scientist Justin Pflug is an author attributed on the Fifth National Climate Assessment, the U.S. Government’s preeminent report on climate change impacts, risks, and responses. The congressionally-mandated effort provides the scientific foundation to support informed decision-making across the United States. Pflug is attributed on two chapters, “Water” and “Compound Events”.
The first chapter focuses on the relationship between climate change and water. Climate change has had profound effects on the water cycle, increasing the risk of flooding, drought, and degraded water supplies for people and ecosystems. These changes will affect all communities, but those on the frontline of climate change—including many Black, Hispanic, Tribal, Indigenous, and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities—face growing risks due to the proximity of their homes and workplaces to hazards and limited access to resources and infrastructure. Though there have been improvements to make society more resilient, infrastructure standards and water allocation institutions have been slow to adapt to a changing climate.
The second chapter is on compound events, occurrences that result from multiple climate drivers or hazards either in an individual location or across multiple locations that, when combined, have greater impacts than isolated hazards on ecosystems, water resources, public health, energy infrastructure, transportation, food systems, and interconnected societal networks, often straining disaster response. Compound events have resulted in multiple recent disasters across several US states. For example, heat, drought, wildfires, and COVID-19 outbreaks compounded during 2020 and 2021 in the Western U.S., causing health hazards, stressing disaster response efforts, and driving economic impacts. Compound events are expected to become more frequent with continued climate change, but resource allocation toward solutions that address multiple community resilience objectives can address some of these challenges.
The Fifth National Climate Assessment has been under development since August, 2021, and contains several new developments compared to previous Assessments. These developments include chapters focused on Social Systems and Justice, and Economics. While Pflug’s research investigates the connection between global climate and snow, he worked with a team of collaborators with a broad range of expertise to develop these chapters, including scientists and experts from academia, governmental institutions, and industry. Personnel from the Fifth National Climate Assessment will be hosting webinars in the coming months focused on presenting the Assessment content and findings. A full list of the webinars, and information about how to attend, can be found here.