Climate change may influence financial market participants in many ways. Particularly, in a market with financial frictions, real estate usually serves explicitly or implicitly as a collateral in debt financing. Risks of physical damage to real property resulting from climate hazards and sea level rise may bring about not only direct loss, but also credit constraint for property holders. How much agents are affected by climate risks is an important research question, and has been explored substantially in the burgeoning climate risk literature. Another important question is what actions can be taken to manage or reduce the risks, and how to evaluate those efforts, which is the main goal of this dissertation. The first chapter studies the effectiveness and efficiency of adaptation investments for averting property damage (e.g. defensible space, drainage system, shoreline stabilization, etc.). Using variation in grant availability for adaptation projects through a U.S. federal program as a quasi-experiment, I quantify the impacts of property-related adaptation investments on debt financing of local governments and the real estate sector. There are three main findings. First, following adaptation investments, the average borrowing cost of a county government decreases by 10-26 basis points for 20 years. Second, nationally, adaptation investments have an insignificant effect on outstanding debt, while in the South and Northeast debt falls by 4.2%. Third, an average investment has a project cost of $2 million and reduces property damage by $323,000 per year, which implies a 15-year internal rate of return of 19%. Overall, these results suggest that adaptation mitigates climate risks. Additional calculations reveal that current levels of adaptation are below the social optimum; and given current spending, capital could be allocated more efficiently by altering the distribution across regions. The second chapter leverages tools in natural language processing (NLP) to explore the potential of generating large-scale yet granular measurements of how individuals perceive climate change and actions for addressing climate challenges. Social media such as Twitter provide a platform for users with diverse backgrounds to freely share their opinions, and thus capture real-time, higher-dimensional information that is not reflected in standard opinion surveys or polls. In this essay, I evaluate the use of different machine learning models to classify opinions on climate change and related actions from tweets. For model training, I annotate a dataset of climate-related tweets using a multi-stage system that distinguishes between two types of climate actions, mitigation or adaptation. I show that a deep learning approach based on contextual embeddings (BERT) outperforms traditional models, and addressing unbalanced classes through up-sampling achieves additional gains in accuracy. Finally, I discuss the limitations and potential applications of text-based characterization of opinions on climate change actions.
The effect of climate change on food and water sustainability is an alarming issue worldwide. Food remains found in ancient settlements and mortuary contexts as is the case in ancient Egypt not only embody a list of plant taxa that shaped the people’s diet and cultural foodways but also encode the social and climatic history of Egypt and the Nile River, which is relevant to current issues relating to the anthropogenic impact of climate change and the impact of the damming of rivers on social structure and food and water supply. Food is more than a biological need that sustains our body; it is an active agent in the creation of social structure, economy, personal identity, and cross-cultural relationships. Contextualized analysis of food remains from the archaeological record has served as a powerful lens for archaeologists, anthropologists, and social historians to understand social relations, cultural interactions, and the engendered experiences of individuals in the past. The archaeological record from ancient Egypt has yielded an exceptionally rich array of organic food remains. Indeed, it was the study of botanical materials from Egypt that spearheaded the field of archaeobotany and allowed Willard Libby to invent carbon dating, using seeds from Djeser’s pyramid housed in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, eventually winning him the Nobel Prize for his contribution in archaeology, geology and other branches of science. In this dissertation, I continue this interdisciplinary cross-link between life sciences and the humanities by proposing interdisciplinary analyses to study ancient foodways, and ultimately demonstrate the various ways in which ancient botanical remains can expand our knowledge of ancient Egyptian society in terms of social structure, temporal and regional cultural variation, cross-regional interactions, and cultural relationships, especially in non-elite contexts. The interpretations of the results are carried out within the theoretical frameworks of postcolonial and indigenous archaeologies to transcend, and push the field of Egyptology beyond colonial and oriental origins. Scientific analysis including stable isotope biogeochemistry and ecology applications on well-dated plant-food remains from the archaeological record serve as a scientific tool to record changes in climate, soil fertility, water cycle, and environmental conditions and how they are influenced by different water and agricultural management systems, providing invaluable deep-time data on the anthropogenic impact of climate change on social structure and foodways. First, I present the analysis of unpublished and reanalyzed botanical remains excavated by Reisner and Lythgoe in the early 1900s at the sites of Nag ed-Deir and Deir el-Ballas that are now housed at the Phoebe Hearst Museum at the University of California, Berkeley. This study presents the results of archaeobotanical and molecular isotopic analyses on plant remains from these sites. A nano-archaeological method was also developed as a non-destructive way to identify the ingredients of a beer mash, which was found to have rich fiber content in addition to residue of wild fruits, used as a natural sweetener. This finding is a region-specific recipe, which demonstrates that there was regional cultural variation in ancient Egyptian cuisine, and a difference in nutritional values of food between the past and present foodways in the Egyptian society. This research also presents the result of a long stable isotope experiment, building a baseline for the Nile River, and introduces a new isotopic method using non-exchangeable oxygen isotopes in fruits to identify the source region of plant-food remains, and the environmental and water conditions in which they grew. Such an approach enables us to reconstruct the elements of a social history of food, regional identities, and cross-cultural interactions, ultimately challenging the simplistic assumption that the ancient Egyptian diet was homogenous and predominantly composed of “bread and beer made of wheat and barley” (Samuel 1997:579). This is also the first stable isotopic study on archaeobotanical remains from Egypt corroborated with AMS carbon dating. This new combination of methods opens a new direction of research into the history of cultural interactions, providing critical implications for historians, bioarchaeologists, hydrologists, and climate change scientists. This research demonstrates that the analysis of plant food remains through interdisciplinary theories and methods not only contributes to social sciences but is also significant in capturing the environmental history of climatic changes in the past and of important relevance to life sciences as well. Contextualized comparison of these changes by contrasting ancient and modern plant species biodiversity and their isotopic composition can be a significant contribution to the next generation of scientists interested in reversing the impact of climate change on social structure and food and water sustainability.
In the 1970s, California Governor Jerry Brown imposed new limits on California, arguing that future losses of revenue and natural resources could alter state government’s capacity to provide services. Embracing conservative ideas like reducing the size of government, limiting social program spending, and balancing budgets, Brown deviated from liberals within the Democratic Party. Although he was reluctant to create new programs, he wanted to promote resource conservation and offer Californians information on how to increase the state’s environmental sustainability. This paper examines the rise and fall of the Office of Appropriate Technology (OAT), an agency within the Brown administration that exemplified his interest in technological innovation and alternative energy sources. While scholars have studied the implementation of conservative principles in state and national government, I argue that Brown offered an alternative approach to governance that blended liberal and conservative ideas. OAT demonstrated the capacity of state government to promote ideas and provide funding for alternative energy projects, while also encouraging local governments and individuals to start projects in their own communities. Using a combination of newspapers, executive branch reports and publications, and legislative documents, this paper traces the development of OAT and shows how it started as an idea-generating machine for the governor and expanded to oversee projects that demonstrated potential for future investment, yet ultimately failed to entrench itself in state government after Brown left office. Although the office closed, its existence illustrated one Democratic response to rising conservatism in the state of California.
My thesis holds that humans and other animals are not separate, yet each species is unique: in possession of different strengths and weaknesses. I will focus herein on our own human species’ particular strengths and weaknesses because these have shaped the present moment of planetary climate crisis. I argue that our ability to consciously influence our own evolution through the epigenetic influence of our species’ tool usage puts the possibility, and therefore responsibility, for correcting our present course of mass extinction squarely upon our shoulders. The very traits of humanity that brought us to this point can indeed chart quite a different course than the one we are on. Our capabilities eliminate the need for our current misgivings, prevarications, and distractions from doing the work at hand and they mitigate against denial, pastoral nostalgia, inaction, and further injustices towards one another. We are confronted on a daily basis with the duties of planetary ecosystemic care, yet the majority have not taken them on. It is time for us to realize our full human capabilities by embracing of our corresponding human responsibilities. I will indicate that art’s imaginative storytelling and cultural influence can help us along the path, both individually and collectively.
There is a prevailing discourse in cultural heritage management which privileges the investigation, interpretation, and conservation of heritage sites by a small group of heritage experts (Smith 2006). However, some heritage experts are challenging this discourse and recommending alternative heritage principles such as multivocality, providing more public access to heritage sites, and encouraging non-heritage experts to define their own value and meaning of heritage (Smith and Wobst 2006a; Liebmann and Rizvi 2008). Such alternative discourses are gaining the attention of heritage management authorities, but there has been no comprehensive comparative analysis of case studies where alternative heritage management principles are an integral part of the research design to determine whether they are successful and what characteristics of such projects are contributing to their success. A cross-case comparative analysis of eleven heritage management projects with a common goal of recording or monitoring sites threatened by climate change reveals that including principles from alternative heritage discourses is linked to better heritage management outcomes
From the beginning of the environmental movements of the 1960s, humans have sought to convey messages of the tragedy of human destruction of the earth. Since then, the world has shifted greatly, and the extent and effects of climate change have become more apparent, yet most humans still cannot fully comprehend the “hyperobject” of climate change. Art with its emotional qualities has been seen to illicit change and comprehension of complicated issues like climate change. In this thesis it is argued that eco-art and new media art practices, together, can effectively communicate the effects of climate change. The ecologically themed new media art project Enviro-Envision, which is an interactive installation showing the effects of human impact and climate change on the past, present, and future of a Santa Cruz coastal redwood ecosystem, illustrates how innovative and vital such interdisciplinary projects can be in communicating climate change. The digital, interactive, and figurative data visualization approaches are compared in context with other contemporary projects and their strategies for the creation of a work with a climate change theme.