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Graduate students at NAU’s Climate Science and Solutions program presented a partnership with Flagstaff’s Sustainability Office to Flagstaff City Council on Tuesday afternoon, which aims to create a climate resiliency resource document that will guide the city and public in adapting to the impacts of climate change. 

Flagstaff has struggled with and continues to face severe flooding as a result of the Museum Fire burn scar. This flooding is one of the impacts of climate change that Noah Humphrey, a graduate student in the Climate Science and Solutions program, described as he provided information on social, environmental and economic vulnerabilities specific to Flagstaff’s climate.

“Climate change effects are already being felt in and around Flagstaff, and will continue to be felt,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey gave examples of these vulnerabilities, while also explaining them. As wildfire and flooding rates increase, the resulting impacts will intensify and could lead to infrastructure damage and declining air quality around Flagstaff. 

Additionally, other vulnerabilities the community will confront include water shortages, health issues and decreased tourism leading to economic hardship. As climate change increases exponentially, effects such as a significant decrease in snowpack and rainfall replacing snowfall will continue to hurt winter recreation. 

More of Flagstaff’s challenges include increasing numbers of pests and insects due to warmer, drier conditions, which could contribute to declining forest health and increased risk of mental health issues as extreme events happen more often. Humphrey explained these widespread impacts are the most commonly faced in Flagstaff, prioritizing them in development of the resource document.

Graduate student Kelcie Kraft described how the resource document will be designed to empower the community as it faces the challenges specific to Flagstaff’s climate.

“With increasing vulnerability, it’s important to invest in a resilient community,” Kraft said. “To build a resilient community, it’s important to have information about the vulnerabilities that Flagstaff faces that is easily understood and readily available.”

Several city documents created in the past decade will be synthesized and expanded: The Resiliency and Preparedness Study, Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and Carbon Neutrality Plan included. By combining and enhancing their strategies with the most recent knowledge about the state of Flagstaff’s climate, the final document will provide applicable recommendations to the city and public as the community adapts to the impacts of climate change.

In order to address the needs of the entire community, the partnership plans to seek as much feedback as possible — especially from those most vulnerable to the impacts faced. A public forum will be held in October, with a specific date yet to be determined. By heavily emphasizing public involvement in the development of the document, those involved aim to find the best ways to support Flagstaff’s community.

Councilmember Adam Shimoni suggested the partnership place emphasis on communicating with and empowering NAU students and other residents. He proposed ideas such as using social media, trends and other creative methods of communication to generate enthusiasm around utilizing the climate resiliency resource document.

“We have a lot of great resource documents in the city,” Shimoni said. “It’s really the connection of communication with the public and empowerment and excitement that’s the hard part.”

The partnership will continue to work on the resource document throughout the semester. In October, they will present their plans to the Commission on Diversity Awareness and the Commission on Inclusion & Adaptive Living. The finalized climate resiliency resource document will be discussed during council’s Nov. 30 meeting. 

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