The San Diego Foundation's Climate Initiative Program

Kirsten Feifel Kathryn Braddock
Posted on: 4/19/2010 - Updated on: 11/18/2021

Posted by

Kirsten Feifel

Project Summary

The San Diego Foundation Climate Initiative supports regional efforts to increase community awareness and education about climate change and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2006, the Initiative has provided leadership, resources, and support for multiple projects throughout San Diego, including projects related to greenhouse gas emissions, climate change impacts projections, case studies, and the sciences.


The San Diego Foundation manages and distributes funds to help improve and address community problems within San Diego. The Foundation works in a variety of Social Impact Areas to advance the quality of life, including arts and culture, civil society, health and human services, disaster relief, education, food and nutrition, housing, science and technology, youth development, and the environment. The goal of the programs within the Environment Impact Area is to ensure future generations have access to healthy ecosystems and are engaged in climate change, while protecting natural ecosystems.

The San Diego Foundation’s Climate Initiative supports regional efforts to increase community awareness and education about climate change and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The San Diego Foundation is working with government, nonprofits, businesses, and consumers to increase public awareness and support for local climate action; support research to build a scientific foundation for public policy; partner with local governments to address climate change impacts; support climate action planning by local cities and public agencies; support nonprofit organizations that will address climate change locally, and engage donors to contribute to climate action solutions. Since 2006, The San Diego Foundation has invested more than $3.5 million in these efforts.


Since the program’s inception in 2006, the San Diego Foundation has supported multiple climate change-related projects and research. Some of the funded research, projects, and planning efforts include:

  • University of San Diego/Energy Policy Initiatives Center School of Law – Determining Solution Pathways to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the San Diego Region
  • San Diego Natural History Museum – Using Plant Data to Assess Climate Change in San Diego
  • San Diego State University – Global Climate Change: Sea Level Rise, Critical Coastal Habitats & Coastal Water Quality in the San Diego Region
  • University of California San Diego, Scripps Institute of Oceanography – Understanding San Diego’s Current and Future Precipitation Patterns Using Real-time Water Vapor Observations
  • University of San Diego/Energy Policy Initiatives Center School of Law – Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy Assessment Project
  • ICLEI USA–Local Governments for Sustainability – San Diego Regional Climate Protection Network
  • San Diego State University Research Foundation / Department of Biology – Using Landscape Genetics to Understand the Impacts of Habitat Fragmentation on Animal Communities in San Diego County in the Context of Climate Change
  • San Diego State University Foundation/Graduate School of Public Health – Coastlines At-Risk Assessment and a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy for the San Diego Region
  • The City of San Diego – Climate Action Plan
  • The City of Chula Vista – Water Stewardship Plan
  • The City of Imperial Beach – Sea Level Rise Assessment
  • Endangered Habitats League – Climate Resiliency in San Diego through Smart Land Use
  • Climate Science Alliance – Climate and Water Resilience for Natural Communities
  • Borrego Valley Stewardship Council – Capacity Building for Collaborative Governance and Community Resilience Through Integrated Master Planning
  • San Diego Coastkeeper – Advancing Sustainable Water Solutions in San Diego County / Achieving Climate-Smart Integrated Water Management and Storm Water Funding in San Diego.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Many climate change-related projects supported through the San Diego Foundation are in progress. However, some notable project outcomes include:

  1. The San Diego County Greenhouse Gas Inventory (September 2008): This project endeavored to inventory all greenhouse gas emissions from San Diego County over the 1990–2006 time period. Using this data, the report estimates greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, provided trends remain the same. The study also calculated the theoretical emissions reductions necessary in each emission category to reduce San Diego’s emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Emissions were calculated using the same methodology developed by the California Air Resources Board.
  2. 2050 Study (2008): This project utilized tools pioneered by King County, Washington, to explore what the San Diego region will be like in the year 2050 if the current climate trends and greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. The report assesses climate change impacts on eight aspects: climate change, population growth, land use, public health, energy, water, biodiversity, and wildfires. Projected impacts are based upon three scaled-down climate models and two emissions scenarios from the IPCC. The report details projected impacts due to increases in temperature, sea level rise, water shortage, increases in wildfires, decreased public health, loss of native species, and increased energy needs. Each chapter highlights the science behind the issue, models projections, and suggests solutions or ways to mitigate the problem.
  3. San Diego Climate Change Progress: Results from a city benchmarking study (2008): This study compared the progress on planning for climate change between nine local cities in San Diego that have declared a commitment to combat the effects of climate change, and eleven other cities located throughout California
  4. San Diego, 2050 is Calling. How Will We Answer? (2014): This report was released by the San Diego Foundation in collaboration with Climate Education Partners. The report presents climate science and opportunities for regional leaders to address climate change in the San Diego area. Briefs on public health and water were later published to supplement the report.


Feifel, K. and Braddock, K.N. (2021). The San Diego Foundation's Climate Initiative Program [Case study on a project of the San Diego Foundation]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. (Last updated October 2021)

Affiliated Organizations

The San Diego Foundation is San Diego's leading resource for information about charitable giving and community needs. They encourage and support meaningful dialogue on issues affecting the communities of San Diego and work with philanthropists to develop creative solutions to meet critical community needs. Since its inception in 1975, The San Diego Foundation has helped citizens find ways to address community problems. The funds they manage now number more than 1,050. Through them, donors support numerous organizations and serve a variety of community needs.

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