UC Davis professor appointed to lead national team tasked with developing report on climate change

Eric Chu, assistant professor in human ecology, has spent years studying how local governments and communities plan for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Chu was recently chosen by the U.S. Global Change Research Program to help prepare the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), a congressionally mandated report on the science of climate change and its impacts on the country. The report will be written by hundreds of experts from around the nation who volunteer their time and expertise to provide policy-relevant information that is easy to understand.

Eric Chu
Eric Chu

“It’s not meant to be this academic, really dense, scientific exercise,” Chu said. “When it comes out, it’s meant to be publicly consumable, clear and concise information.”

Chu was selected to serve as one of more than two dozen chapter leads. He’s responsible for building a diverse team of authors to create content for the report’s “built environment” chapter, one of 31 chapters that are categorized by region or sector, which include water, agriculture and air quality.

“This chapter accounts for a lot of things,” Chu said. “Built environment means the physical space, physical assets and the social, ecological and economic networks that underpin the human settlements in the country.”

NCA5 is expected to be released in late 2023. While the report is not intended to tell policymakers what actions to take, Chu believes it will be an important tool to inform and help federal agencies, and the public, come up with strategies and actions to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

“Wildfires in California, hurricanes in Louisiana, sea level rise in the Florida Keys, with all this stuff we’re experiencing across the country trying to put this in scientific context is really key,” Chu said. “The assessment is likely going to be one more information source to reflect on the urgency to deal with climate change and to put some of the things the country has been experiencing right as we speak at the forefront of everybody’s mind.”

Chu is also a lead author with one of the working groups for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC), the United Nations body charged with assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC’s “Sixth Assessment Report” is currently being prepared by the working groups; one portion of the assessment report was released this year, while the remaining two are due out next year. Chu says he has invited students to contribute to the group’s work and hopes other students will participate in his current two-year involvement with the NCA5.

“It’s a great way for students, undergraduate and graduate students, to learn about climate science,” Chu said.

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