Extreme weather, climate change, and the incredible power of Mother Nature have been major topics of discussion throughout California and certainly our campus since the start of the new year. An atmospheric river, which is essentially a narrow band of concentrated moisture, took direct aim at Santa Cruz County in early January, bringing a series of storms that flooded and damaged homes and businesses, destroyed roadways, forced mandatory evacuations in some areas, and caused widespread power outages that made learning, teaching, working, and traveling extremely difficult.

Our campus was fortunate. We lost power campuswide for just a few short periods, and none of the downed trees and branches we experienced injured anyone or caused much damage, though the storms created headaches and hardships for many of our students, staff, and faculty just as the quarter was starting.

These storms serve as a powerful reminder of what California and other parts of the world can expect more regularly as changes in atmospheric humidity and heat caused by climate change increase the intensity and frequency of extreme weather and floods.

I am proud that our campus is at the leading edge of efforts to address the challenges of climate change and identify solutions that can benefit people and nature in coastal communities worldwide. We will soon formally launch our Center for Coastal Climate Resilience, which was seed-funded this past summer with $20 million from the state. The center’s early focus will be on engaging partners across communities, agencies, and businesses to advance innovative solutions that build resilience to climate change.

We are uniquely positioned to lead this work, building on our long record of research excellence in areas such as marine biology and marine mammal science, ocean science, and ecology. The focus of our center will be on the coastal zone, the interface between the land and sea, and the area most vulnerable to climate change. We have a front-row seat in Santa Cruz, sitting on the Monterey Bay just a bit above sea level, from which to observe in real-time the impacts of coastal climate change.

Our Coastal Science and Policy Program will make important contributions to this work. This innovative program educates emerging coastal science and policy leaders, teaching them to identify critical threats to social and ecological systems worldwide; respond to complex problems with effective, practical alternatives; and confront institutions ranging from government agencies to insurance companies with innovative, interdisciplinary solutions. UC Santa Cruz has a huge role to play in building the workforce needed to address the challenges of climate change, and the Center for Coastal Climate Resilience will help us to grow and engage dynamic leaders.

The work already taking place in our Center for Agroecology will be another component of our efforts, as we help communities implement climate-smart agriculture, an integrated approach to managing landscapes that address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate change.

Our entire approach to the center is in sync with our core values, centering the human impacts of climate change and highlighting the marginalized communities often most impacted by extreme weather events. For example, locally, the Pajaro and Salinas valleys, which are each home to thousands of low-income families and farmworker communities, were both significantly affected by the recent floods. The center will work to advance equitable coastal-adaptation practices.

More storms will undoubtedly come our way, but I believe that we can make our coasts safer and more resilient in the face of climate change by working in public and private partnerships, and that UC Santa Cruz will help lead the way in developing solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change in our region and around the world.

Together we are making a difference.



Cynthia Larive, Chancellor


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