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Urban Planning

Featured Interdisciplinary Initiative

Deep Decarbonization Initiative

The mission of the UC San Diego Deep Decarbonization Initiative is to help understand and guide the global economy as it moves toward net-zero carbon emissions. The aim is to understand how policymakers and investors shift from existing to new energy systems in the real world and the pace at which such transitions occur. It also explores how such shifts could be accelerated so that global carbon emissions tumble even as energy systems meet the needs of humanity.

Labs, Projects, Programs and Collaborations

Climate Action Lab

Our mission is to reduce global heating by changing human behavior. We are social scientists—economists, psychologists, urban planners, political scientists, anthropologists, etc. First, we conduct applied research to test what leads people to change their minds about the climate and what leads them to change their actions. Then, we put these insights to work in partnership with communities and policymakers.

Climate Action Scholars Program

The Climate Action Scholars Program is an initiative of the Social Sciences Division, with the courses cross-listed in the Anthropology and Urban Studies and Planning Departments. In the course series, students examine the historical, structural and cultural roots of the climate crisis, its effects across diverse communities and ecologies and the creative ways local people respond and build collective resilience.

Sustainable Development Solutions Network USA

Three universities host the Sustainable Development Solutions Network USA (SDSN USA): Yale, Howard, Columbia and UC San Diego. Together, these universities and a network of more than 100 higher education institutions are at the core of the SDSN USA. For example, at UC San Diego, the SDG Policy Initiative is the organization that facilitates the connection. Achieving sustainable and inclusive growth across interrelated challenges such as poverty, discrimination, climate change and biodiversity loss requires new analytical tools that cut across disciplines and new policymaking processes beyond traditional silos of governance.

The Bioregional Center for Sustainability Science, Planning and Design

The Bioregional Center's Green Infrastructure and Climate team develops plans, projects and strategies designed to promote green infrastructure to address critical urban and environmental planning issues, including stormwater management, brownfield toxics remediation, climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Featured Researchers and Professors

Jennifer Burney

Associate Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy

Jennifer Burney is an environmental scientist. Her research focuses on the coupled relationships between climate and food security by measuring air pollutant emissions and concentrations, quantifying the effects of climate and air pollution on land use, food systems and human health. In addition, she seeks to understand how food production and consumption contribute to climate change and designs and evaluates technologies and strategies for adaptation and mitigation among the world’s farmers. She holds the Marshall Saunders Chancellor's Endowed Chair in Global Climate Policy and Research.

Michael Davidson

Assistant Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy; Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Michael Davidson researches the engineering implications and institutional conflicts inherent in deploying renewable energy at scale. He is particularly interested in systems within emerging electricity markets, including China, India and the western United States.

Fonna Forman

Associate Professor, Political Science

Forman is an advocate for deepening university-community research partnerships. She is Vice-Chair of the University of California Climate Solutions Group and co-editor of "Bending the Curve: 10 Scalable Solutions for Carbon and Climate Neutrality,” the University of California report on carbon neutrality. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Climate Neutrality Task Force, the UC San Diego Global Health Initiative, the Urban Studies and Planning Program, the Global Health major, Food and Fuel for the 21st Century (FF21) and the Center for Tomorrow’s California.

Lawrence D. Frank

Professor, Urban Studies and Planning

Lawrence Frank specializes in the interaction between land use, travel behavior, air quality and health, and the energy use and climate change impacts of urban form policies. He is a “walkability pioneer” and was among the first to quantify connections between the built environment, active transportation and health. Frank has led over $20 million in primary research and consults with government agencies, NGOs and decision-makers supporting their ability to predict travel, GHG, chronic disease and economic impacts of land use and transportation policies.

Gordon McCord

School of Global Policy and Strategy

Gordon McCord researches sustainable development and works at the intersection of development economics, public health and the environment. He is renowned for his research employing spatial data analysis to explore sustainable land use, the evolving role of geography in economic development, the burden of infectious diseases such as malaria in a changing climate, the impact of agricultural technology diffusion and spatial patterns of violent conflict. McCord is also a senior adviser to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations.

Mai Thi Nguyen

Professor, Urban Studies and Planning; Director, Design Lab

Mai Thi Nguyen’s research focuses on social and spatial equity and examines planning and policy topics related to housing, immigration and climate change. She is passionate about designing cities that are equitable, just and resilient.

Keith Pezzoli

Director of Bioregional Center for Sustainability Science, Planning and Design; MetroLab Network’s Green Infrastructure and Planning Project

The Bioregional Center and MetroLab Project share three broad objectives. First, to enable the sustainability transition eradicating root causes of ecological degradation, poverty, social strife and injustice. Second, to democratize science and technology. And third, to enhance means of communication, including narratives, storytelling, data visualization, mapping and participatory decision support systems to improve public reasoning in sustainability planning, policy and design. Keith Pezzoli teaches courses focused on Food Justice, Science Communication, Sustainable Development, Urban World Systems and Field Research Methods.

David G. Victor

Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy

David Victor's research focuses on regulated industries and how regulation affects the operation of major energy markets. Much of his research is at the intersection of climate change science and policy. At UC San Diego, Victor and researchers at the Deep Decarbonization Initiative work at the intersection of science, technology and policy. They are focused on helping the world cut emissions of warming gases given technology, economic and political constraints.


Academic Degree Programs


Undergraduate Minor

Extension Site Programs

Climate Action Scholars Program

  • The Climate Action Scholars Program is an initiative of the Division of Social Sciences, with the courses cross-listed in the Anthropology and Urban Studies and Planning departments. In the two-course sequence, students examine the historical, structural and cultural roots of the climate crisis, its effects across diverse communities and ecologies, and the creative ways local people respond and build collective resilience.

Featured Courses

USP 170. Sustainable Planning

This course will explore the different factors and processes that shape a sustainable city. Contemporary green planning techniques and values will be evaluated. The course will also discuss planning, designing, and implementation of sustainable facilities that will reduce sprawl.

USP 171GS. International Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is a broad concept that encompasses efforts to promote environmentally sound approaches to economic, social, and physical development. This course provides a critical, transdisciplinary overview of emergent theories and practices of sustainability in an international comparative context.