Dangerous climate change is upon us. During the last 20 years, 606,000 people died from extreme weather events. In 30 years 40% of the global population, rich and poor, will be exposed to catastrophic heat waves, droughts, fires, storms, floods, vector- and water-borne diseases. Before century’s end, 80% of the population will be exposed to deadly heat waves.  Climate disruption will spare no human being, living or unborn.  It poses the greatest global threat to human health and well-being, intensifying and complicating forced migration and all the other critical problems our world faces. Climate justice refers to the disproportionate impact of climate disruption on the world’s most vulnerable demographics.  Vulnerable populations are least responsible, yet they are at greatest risk.

The Center on Global Justice is committed to research, advocacy and consultation on climate disruption and climate justice.  But we also understand that top-down approaches must converge with bottom-up approaches to produce meaningful change.  Climate change has gotten entangled with political and corporate agendas that obfuscate the crisis. The problem is accelerating not because we lack technical solutions but because we lack public commitment for urgent action. We need to change our culture.  Educating a generation is our most powerful tool for changing hearts and minds.

But not just any education.  We must avoid passive learning that paralyzes and disempowers, making climate crisis seem too massive, too far away in space and time, or someone else’s problem. Climate education must include integral, inquiry-based, community-rooted strategies that invest both young and adult learners in the challenge, cultivate empathy, and instigate a sense of agency and generational purpose.

The Center on Global Justice is focused on developing new climate education protocols, and new models of participatory climate action, with a focus on underserved communities of color across the San Diego-Tijuana border region.  Through our rooted partnerships in the UCSD Community Stations, we co-develop strategies that help vulnerable communities adapt to climate disruption, as well as contribute to regional climate mitigation goals. When peoples’ lives are inundated by poverty, violence, failing schools and failing infrastructure, they are likelier to become engaged in climate action when they understand the impacts on their own lives, in their own neighborhoods; and when local opportunities for participatory climate action with neighborhood-scale impact are made available to them. The UCSD Community Stations are committed to changing hearts and minds about climate change at community-scale, and stimulating participatory climate action from the bottom-up.


Center Co-Director Fonna Forman at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC-Berkeley in March 202, discussing global energy policy with Mary Robinson, seventh President of Ireland (1990-97), United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), and Director of the Mary Robinson Foundation on Climate Justice.

Forum on Energy and Climate Justice with Mary Robinson

In 2012-13, Fonna Forman represented the Social Sciences Division on a campus-wide committee to advance an “Advanced Energy Initiative”, catalyzing an evolution of CGJ partnerships, research projects, and funding streams that have made climate justice a core research cluster for the CGJ.In April 2013 the CGJ organized a two-day campus-wide forum on energy and climate justice, in collaboration with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and five divisions across the campus.

On Day 1, we curated a high-profile televised conversation between SIO’s Ram Ramanathan (and his Project Surya research on short-lived climate pollutants) and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, and beloved global advocate for climate justice. Dai 1 ended with a lecture on Climate Justice by Mary Robinson (video to right).

Day 2 was an public forum that showcased the UC San Diego’s research and innovation on energy solutions, with four panels that discussed: short-lived pollutants like soot and black carbon; electricity generation and transmission; fuel and transport challenges, and the need for a bioregional approach in analyzing and adapting to climate change.  Participants included: Steve Mayfield, George Tynan, David Victor, Byron Washom, Wael Al-Delaimy, Keith Pezzoli, Ram Ramanathan, Carlos Coimbra, Mark Jacobsen, Steve Parish, Shirley Meng, Lynn Russell, Jen Burney, others.

Mary Robinson in Conversation with Ram Ramanathan

Lecture on Climate Justice by Mary Robinson

Videos from the Forum on Energy and Climate

View Full Playlist on YouTube

Bending the Curve report: Learning from California

In 2015, CGJ Advisory Board member, and renowned Scripps climate scientist, Ram Ramanathan invited Fonna Forman to serve as Vice-Chair of the influential 2015 University of California report on climate change solutions: ​Bending the Curve: 10 Scalable Solutions for Carbon Neutrality and Climate Stability. Empowered by UC Professor Janet Napolitano, the report was assembled by 50 diverse researchers across the University of California to document California’s successes as scalable models for others.

Bending the Curve presents climate disruption as a complex but solvable problem requiring solutions that integrate science, technology, ethics, policy, governance, finance, ecosystem management, and societal transformation.  The report’s 10 solutions were further elaborated in a set of policy reports, published trough the Collabra, the public access portal of the University of California Press.

With CGJ support, Forman served as lead co-author of a paper on climate justice and public health, with Gina Solomon, UCSF Professor of Medicine and Brown-appointed Deputy Secretary for Science and Health at the California EPA.

In October 2015, Bending the Curve was presented at a high-profile Carbon and Climate Neutrality Summit, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, that included presentations by UC President Janet Napolitano and California Governor Jerry Brown, who carried the report to the COP-21 meetings in Paris.  Bending the Curve is now embraced by current California Governor, Gavin Newsom.

Forman spoke about climate justice at the UC Carbon and Climate Neutrality Summit

Climate Solutions Education

Education is our most powerful tool for transforming society, to overcome climate inaction and empower a generation of scientifically-minded and civically-engaged youth who are committed and prepared to tackle climate disruption.

In 2016, Forman recorded a 5-module video lecture called “Poverty and the Environment” for an online undergraduate course called Global Poverty & Inequality in the 21st Century, hosted by the University of California-Irvine Blum Center

In 2017 Forman and Ramanathan piloted Bending the Curve as an undergraduate course (link to BTC syllabus PDF included in the file) at UC San Diego, a collaboration between Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Department of Political Science

In the last years, Bending the Curve has been transformed into a set of educational protocols taught across the University of California system, expanding now to the California State system, Stockholm University, the National University of Taiwan, among others, in both in-class and digital formats. We are presently leading efforts to transform the protocol into a set of learning tool for K-12 students.

Bending the Curve is a unique approach since is presented climate disruption as a complex but solvable problem, integrating science, technology, ethics, policy, governance, finance, ecosystem management, and societal transformation.  Students become active learners, challenged to apply their knowledge through a variety of inquiry-based activities. Our engaged learning methods empower students to feel they can do something about it.

The Center on Global Justice is primarily responsible for educational content (instructional videos, textbook chapters) related to climate justice and social transformation.

For more on the Bending the Curve educational toolkit, visit our project website:

Poverty and the Environment

Participatory Climate Action: The EPIC Chollas Eco-Village

A cross-sector community planning project in collaboration with the UCSD Center for Energy Research to design a near zero-net energy community in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Encanto, funded by a $1.5M planning grant in 2016 from the California Energy Commission (GFO-15-312).  Partners include the environmental non-profit Groundwork San Diego, the San Diego Unified School District, San Diego Gas & Electric, and the City of San Diego. The 2-year planning phase merged the technological, financial, policy and social- educational imperatives of doing climate action in underserved urban neighborhoods. The planning phase included an environmental education focus, including the design and application of an innovative climate attitude and behavior survey, coordinated by the Center on Global Justice. Our proposal to the CEC for Phase II build-out is presently underway.

Climate Justice, Climate Migration and Public Health

CGJ researchers  have conducted primary research on the disproportionate global impacts of climate change for two projects organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Forman and Ramanathan delivered a paper on “Climate Change, Mass Migration And Sustainability: A Probabilistic Case for Urgent Action” for the 2017 Working Group on Humanitarianism and Mass Migration, hosted by UCLA, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Ross Institute, hosted by Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, Wasserman Dean of the School of Education.  The paper appears here.

In November 2017, Ramanathan organized a Vatican summit, Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility 

Forman delivered a paper on “Rethinking Climate Justice: Practical Ethics in Urgent Times”

Vatican Lecture Q&A’s
A panel discussion was convened at UC San Diego, to reflect on the Vatican event and its scientific deliberations on climate change and air pollution.  The discussion featured UC San Diego researchers Ram Ramanathan, Wael Al-Delaimy, Fonna Forman, and Michael Pratt.

“Combatting Climate Change” with Janet Napolitano

In April 2019 the Western Political Science Association (WPSA) convened its annual meeting in San Diego, with the theme: The Politics of Climate Change. The Center on Global Justice partnered closely with Pi Sigma Alpha (the national Political Science Honors Society and the UC San Diego Department of Political Science to host University of California President Janet Napolitano to deliver the 2019 Pi Sigma Alpha Lecture, titled: Combatting Climate Change.

TomKat Net-Zero Communication Working Group

In 2016-8, Forman was Co-PI of the UC-TomKat Net-Zero Communication Working Group, tasked with developing a communication strategy and outreach plan to help the UC reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. Its report was released in July 2018.

Under 2 Degrees Celsius: Fast Action Policies to Protect People and the Planet from Extreme Climate Changes

In 2016-7, Forman participated on the Committee to Prevent Extreme Climate Change (chaired by Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Mario J. Molina and Durwood Zaelke), a task force to promoting fast actions to limit warming within the coming decades. Its report, Under 2 Degrees Celsius, was submitted to the UNFCC through the Climate & Clean Air Coalition

Climate Policy Success

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