Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Master of Advanced Studies program in Climate Science and Policy responds to an international need for people working in topics affected by the world's changing oceans and climate to combine the scientific knowledge of the Earth's climate system with an understanding of the political, legal, and economic challenges associated with applying scientific knowledge in particular governmental and social contexts. The program's interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to prepare practitioners to make wise and realistic decisions about the management of climate impacts and their associated risks. Crossing a variety of fields in climate sciences, policy and communication, the program invites students with professional backgrounds in the private and public sectors as well as non-government organizations (NGOs).

Cover page of Binational Climate Vulnerability Assessmentfor Cross-Border Adaptation Planning in theSan Diego-Tijuana Region

Binational Climate Vulnerability Assessmentfor Cross-Border Adaptation Planning in theSan Diego-Tijuana Region


Climate change is a global concern that requires international strategies for both mitigation andadaptation. Despite sharing a regional ecosystem and economy, the San Diego-Tijuana borderregion will face the same challenges without a common framework that addresses the collectivesocial and ecological risk posed by climate change. Environmental issues, such as flooding,erosion, and pollution resulting from a long history of rapid urbanization in the region alreadyimpact both sides of the border, particularly disadvantaged communities. This project involved abinational climate vulnerability assessment that evaluated ecological and socioeconomic impactsbeyond geopolitical boundaries to address the need for binational collaboration and cooperationin climate action planning. Results from the binational climate assessment were used to create aBinational Climate Vulnerability Atlas containing maps and narratives as a visual representationof social-ecological vulnerability and risk in the region.The binational climate vulnerability assessment is an evolving deliverable and the first iterationof binational maps and data packaged in the context of climate change and in similar terms forSan Diego-Tijuana. Information synthesized in the Atlas provides a novel composition ofresources available along with recommendations for cross-border climate adaptation planningthat can be used to inform policy from a binational perspective in the future. Therecommendations focused on several themes, including natural climate solutions, partnershipsand collaboration, governance, and science data and sharing. Collectively, this work provides afoundation for a more robust, detailed assessment that would involve cross-border collaborationbetween planners, resources managers, scientists, and other binational stakeholders.

Cover page of (re)Awakening to the benefits and climate impacts of telework during COVID-19

(re)Awakening to the benefits and climate impacts of telework during COVID-19


Global CO2e emissions have declined during the COVID-19 shutdown. Much of the decline is due to reductions in transportation, a portion of which is attributable to increasing telework. This capstone explores the impacts of increased telework, both during the shutdown, and more importantly following the COVID-19 crisis, on climate action goals in San Diego and California. Passenger vehicle emissions make up significant portions of overall greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in San Diego and California. Nearly 85% of San Diego workers commute to their jobs alone in their vehicle. The project provides a brief history of telework, then explores various factors which make telework successful, including organizational support, job type, employee attributes, work environment, and organizational processes. Second, the GHG emissions impacts of increasing telework (reduced employee commutes) for one company in San Diego post-COVID-19 are calculated. Third, potential company cost savings and individual employee benefits are calculated. Fourth, assumptions are made about post-shutdown industry sector telework levels using bureau of labor and statistics data, pre-shutdown telework estimates, as well as industry surveys conducted, and public statements made by corporate figures, during the shutdown. Finally, overall reductions to GHG emissions due to increases in telework calculated for San Diego and the state of California, and a comparison is made against San Diego and California 2030 GHG emissions reduction targets. The company I used for the project is Illumina, Inc. headquartered in San Diego. The research conducted during this project found that the potential reduction to GHG emissions from various industry sector increases in telework post-shutdown are significant, approximately 10% of projected San Diego GHG emissions in 2030. California is projected to miss 2030 GHG reduction targets by approximately 25MMTCO2e; however, this research found that increases in telework could reduce the projected 2030 GHG excess over target by 32%.

Cover page of Rising Tensions: The impact of Sea Level Rise on Maritime Zones

Rising Tensions: The impact of Sea Level Rise on Maritime Zones


Sea Level Rise will result in a variety of impacts by 2100. One of these will be changing coastlines around the world as land is inundated by the ocean. Currently, the mean low-water lines around the world are used as baselines for maritime zones under the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea. These physical points will change in the future and UNCLOS does not explicitly state what this means for maritime zones. In some cases the Vienna Convention on the Law of International Treaties can be applied to fix zones defined under bilateral treaties. However, for zones not defined in a bilateral treaty, the future is more uncertain. The future of these zones is likely to be up to the discretion of courts and tribunals with jurisdiction over UNCLOS or rely on updates to the convention.

Cover page of Flexible Transportation: A Solution for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in San Diego

Flexible Transportation: A Solution for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in San Diego


Transportation is the largest contributor to GHG emissions in San Diego. To reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector, total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) must be reduced and average vehicle occupancy (AVO) has to be increased. This study assesses flexible transit as a solution to tackle VMT and AVO in San Diego. The study analyzed travel patterns and created potential vanpool routes for replacing driving alone work trips. The potential routes and route score can be used to prioritize and target groups of individuals who are suitable for the vanpool program by the geographic area of home and workplace. Based on the result, the current SANDAG Vanpool program has an opportunity to expand the program and increase the number of participants. Potential benefits of vanpools are estimated to have a total daily reduction of up to 50,392 vehicles, 421,761 VMT, and 143.06 tons of CO2. Compared to scenarios for a radical expansion of legacy forms of fixed-route transit, the flexible transit deployment would require significantly less operational subsidy, due in large part to unpaid drivers, and radically less expense to the public for hard infrastructure investments. Expanding flexible transit thus makes economic sense. Flexible-transit will also be much more likely to attract new transit users given a preferred travel experience with a straight point to point transport and absent mode changes or transfers for riders that have origins and destinations outside of transit adjacent development. This study has shown that flexible transit has the potential to be a solution to both transportation and GHG emissions problems in San Diego.

Cover page of Lines in the Sand: The Challenges of Beach Width as a Parameter for Coastal Vulnerability

Lines in the Sand: The Challenges of Beach Width as a Parameter for Coastal Vulnerability


As local coastal management in San Diego begins to develop climate change adaptation plans to address growing coastal vulnerability, beach width, the distance between the shoreline and the landward limit of the backshore, is growingly being cited as a metric for evaluating coastal vulnerability and triggering a more aggressive adaptive response. This is because narrowing beach width could serve as an early warning indicator of long-term beach erosion or permanent beach loss.  The beaches may also serve as a buffer against coastal hazards such as king tides, wave energy and sea-level rise for coastal homes, businesses, or infrastructure. This study assessed spatio-temporal trends associated with the natural variability of beach width and identifying deviations from the norm. The analysis was conducted using 8 years(2008-2016) of monthly beach width data collected by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, from two locations in San Diego – Imperial Beach and North Torrey Pines and compared with quarterly beach surveys at the same locations for the SANDAG Regional Shoreline Monitoring Program. Additionally, this study will highlight the importance of El Niño seasons and beach nourishments on beach width variability, and how these factors might be considered when establishing a beach monitoring approach and setting triggers for implementing an adaptive response.

Cover page of The Sixth Carbon Metric: A New Methodology for Climate Change Impact Investing

The Sixth Carbon Metric: A New Methodology for Climate Change Impact Investing


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of a novel greenhouse gas (GHG) emission metric within the context of recommendations made by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) (TCFD 2017) for how asset owners and managers should account for the impacts of emissions associated with their investments and holdings. The goal of the metric is to incorporate requirements outlined by Paul Brest and Kelly Born in the seminal paper “Unpacking the Impact in Impact Investing” 1 into carbon metrics already recommended by the TCFD, including footprint analysis that adds and compares portfolios based on their associated Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions 2 profiles.The new metric is designed to evaluate alternatively the directionality (slope) and velocity (rate) of carbon emissions reductions so critical to a market-based solution for addressing climate change. This study utilizes historical emissions and public equity security data to complete a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) on separate climate focused investment strategies and a common benchmark. The objective of the CBA is to determine which of the potential decisions for investments would lead to the best outcome, in terms of emissions reduction. This study assumes an initial investment of a hypothetical $1 billion ($1b) on behalf of a global pension scheme concerned about the long-term climate-related ramifications of their investments. This study finds that the use of a Smart Climate â approach leads to greater insight into the attribution of return performance and a total net benefit of carbon reductions (or impact) over alternative market approaches to investing for a low carbon future. In conclusion, this study finds that this new metric can be useful in assisting asset owners and managers in evaluating the total climate-related impacts of their investment decisions. In addition, this study also suggests that investors can achieve greater total impact by overweighting companies that score highly for how they are managing their climate change transition risk with regards to a business as usual benchmark.

Cover page of Sustainability Ambassadors: Spearheading Student Engagement in Climate Change Education

Sustainability Ambassadors: Spearheading Student Engagement in Climate Change Education


In 2013, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced the Carbon Neutrality Initiative which commited all ten UC campuses to emit net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its operations including buildings, electricity purchases, and vehicle fleet by 2025. The Carbon Neutrality Initiative resulted in the UC Bending the Curve Report and the Strategic Communication to Achieve Carbon Neutrality within the UC report which both emphasize the importance of communications and education in achieving UC climate goals and global climate stability. Moreover, the UC San Diego Climate Action Plan highlights behavior and institutional change as a key climate change mitigation strategy with a focus on adjusting energy consumption habits. Sponsored by the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, the UC San Diego Sustainability Ambassadors Program is a student organization that aims to raise awareness of campus carbon neutrality efforts and encourage students to implement sustainable living methods. As the University transitioned to online learning, the Sustainability Ambassadors Program centered its focus on utilizing various platforms to remotely educate and engage students with climate change science and UC San Diego’s climate initiatives. Through an online training and survey, the Program also assessed students’ attitudes and beliefs regarding climate change and how the UC San Diego campus is addressing it. Results from the survey informed recommendations for future engagement efforts that can be applied broadly across higher education institutions.

Cover page of Climate Curiosities: A Podcast Championing Climate Science Communications

Climate Curiosities: A Podcast Championing Climate Science Communications


Climate change has become a top priority for many scientists and politicians around the world, but most of the general public cannot understand their technical terminology. Without the proper knowledge or exposure to climate science and policy, the public is left confused and uninformed on what to think, what to do individually and how to vote on systematic climate policies. For my capstone, I created the Climate Curiosities Podcast. It is designed to be an approachable and easily accessible platform to connect people with climate science and policy experts and address some of the most common curiosities about climate change. The Climate Curiosities Podcast breaks down three major questions: 1. What scientific evidence do we have to support climate change observations and projections? 2. What are the causes and consequences of climate change, specifically on humans? 3. What are some actions and solutions that are available to address climate change today? Interested in learning more? Listen to the Climate Curiosities Podcast, available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Cover page of Green Space as a Heat Wave Adaptation Strategy: A Health Impact Assessment for San Diego County

Green Space as a Heat Wave Adaptation Strategy: A Health Impact Assessment for San Diego County


Extreme heat poses a major public health threat, which will continue to worsen with climate change. It is therefore essential that local governments implement heat adaptation strategies – especially in large urban centers where this heat-health relationship is compounded by the micro-urban heat island effect. The use of green space to mitigate the health impacts of heat has shown promise in previous studies and serves as the basis of this project, which aimed to quantify the potential health benefits associated with 33 different greening scenarios in San Diego County, California. The project was divided into three steps, the first of which was understanding the current distribution of green space in San Diego County. This step involved collecting data for various green space proxies and mapping their county-wide distributions on the zip-code level. Step two aimed to understand the relationship between green space and health by performing meta-regressions between these proxies and zip-code level heat-attributable hospitalization data, which was obtained using a time-series approach. The last step involved developing a variety of hypothetical green space intervention scenarios based loosely on Benach et al.’s (2012) typology of policies, and then performing a health impact assessment to determine the health benefits of each intervention scenario. My results suggest that the use of green space could be effective as a heat adaptation strategy in San Diego County, with most greening scenarios producing a strong reduction in avoidable heat-attributable hospitalizations.