Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Stephanie Siehr


California is already experiencing impacts to its coastline due to climate change, and more severe impacts are anticipated if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. These climate change impacts are especially strong within the California coastal zone, which falls under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission. The Commission has a history of rigorous environmental protection and is committed to protecting California’s coast through proactive planning and regulation, however they will need to initiate coastal policies with ambitious targets to facilitate effective climate change adaptation and mitigation. This study analyzed existing California climate policies and Coastal Commission policies to identify successes and gaps in the Commission’s work on climate change. Key findings include successful state funding mechanisms, energy saving state standards and ambitious state greenhouse gas reduction goals, as well as successful coastal adaptation projects and mechanisms throughout California. Findings also demonstrated a gap in the amount of funding currently available for coastal adaptation. Analysis of the Commission’s current climate adaptation policy suggests that the agency should amend their coastal act to reflect current pressing climate issues. To strengthen the Commission’s mission of protecting the California coastline, this study recommends that coastal developments obtain RELi resilience certification to ensure that coastal development can react to the shocks and stresses of climate change within the coastal zone. This analysis of policy options to strengthen the Commission’s climate policy yielded two alternative recommendations. The first recommends using a market mechanism to facilitate greenhouse gas reduction within the coastal zone, while the other recommends the implementation of a regulatory mandate. Both recommendations offer a suggested framework modeled after current California policy that works to facilitate funding for coastal adaption within the California coastal zone.