Date of Graduation

Spring 5-19-2023

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Adam Hess


This report investigates the possibility that climate change could increase the risk of oil spills in California. The primary climate change impact reviewed is the increasing severity of storms and extreme weather events. Natural disasters can be the initiating cause of technological accidents and the increasing severity or frequency of intense storms may increase the likelihood of an oil spill from refineries, extraction/drilling rigs, or oil in transport. A literature review of climate adaptation strategies and storm intensity predictions was completed to determine if severe storm events are expected to increase in intensity or frequency. A review of oil spill reporting databases was completed to determine if recent severe weather events have been the cause of reportable releases of oil in California. A literature review of California’s climate adaptation strategies was completed to determine if California has identified the potential for climate change to impact oil spill risks The review of storm likelihood found that the likelihood and severity of storms in California is increasing due to climate change. Spills were reported during severe weather events where the weather was either the reported cause of the spill or impacts from the spill may have been worsened by the weather. The literature review of California adaptation strategies determined that California has identified that climate change may pose a risk to oil and gas infrastructure. However, the adaptation strategy does not go far beyond the identification of risk and primarily focuses on recommendations for electrical infrastructure or the supply chain risk of transportation fuel rather than oil spill risk.