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Jennifer Burney - UC San Diego. La Jolla, CA, US

Jennifer Burney

Associate Professor of Environmental Science | UC San Diego


Jennifer Burney's research focuses on simultaneously achieving global food security and mitigating climate change.






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Professor Jennifer Burney on the relationship between climate and humans IR/PS Professor Jennifer Burney interview Radically Rethinking Food Security Stanford Study: Solar Irrigation in Africa




Jennifer Burney is an environmental scientist at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy whose research focuses on simultaneously achieving global food security and mitigating climate change. She designs, implements and evaluates technologies for poverty alleviation and agricultural adaptation, and studies the links between “energy poverty” — the lack of access to modern energy services — and food or nutrition security, the mechanisms by which energy services can help alleviate poverty, the environmental impacts of food production and consumption, and climate impacts on agriculture.

Her research spans developing and developed regions, and she is particularly interested in the science, technology and policy of short-lived climate pollutants, or SLCPs, and the role that mitigation of these compounds can play in meeting both climate and food security objectives.

She is a research affiliate at UC San Diego’s Policy Design and Evaluation Laboratory, UC San Diego’s Center for Energy Research, and the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA); she is also a member of the National Geographic Explorers family. She leads the Science Policy Fellows Program at the School.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Climate Impacts on Agriculture


Energy Poverty

Global Food Security

Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

Environmental Impacts of Food Production and Consumption

Education (2)

Stanford University: Ph.D., Physics 2006

Harvard College: A.B., History and Science 1999

Affiliations (4)

  • 2017: American Geophysical Union Global Environmental Change Early Career Award
  • 2014: Named Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow
  • 2014: Named Hellman Fellow
  • 2011: Named National Geographic Emerging Explorer

Media Appearances (4)

Blocking sunlight to cool Earth won't reduce crop damage from global warming

ScienceDaily  online


Proposals to inject sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere to block and scatter sunlight and reduce global temperatures could, some say, also increase crop yields because of reduced heat stress on plants. A new study shows that other effects counterbalance the positive effects of reduced heat stress. Specifically, blocking sunlight reduces photosynthesis, which offsets any improvement from slightly cooler temperatures. The team based their analysis on the effects from two previous volcanic eruptions.

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Meet the Globetrotters and Expats Shaping San Diego

San Diego Magazine  online


After earning a bachelor’s from Harvard and a PhD in physics from Stanford, this self-described “child of the mountains” found that environmental science was the way to stay outside. For the last decade, Jennifer Burney’s main laboratories for studying food security and climate change have been the African nation of Benin—where she lived for one year—and northeastern Brazil.

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Burney, Campbell, Gentine, and Lin Receive 2017 Global Environmental Change Early Career Award

Earth & Space Science News  online


Jennifer Burney, Elliott Campbell, Pierre Gentine, and Jintai Lin will receive the 2017 Global Environmental Change Early Career Award at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 11–15 December in New Orleans, La. The award recognizes an early-career scientist “for outstanding contributions in research, educational, or societal impacts in the area of global environmental change, especially through interdisciplinary approach.”

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Cleaner fuels for fishing boats could backfire on the climate

Science Magazine  online


One take-home message for consumers is that, just as milk doesn’t come from a carton, fish don’t come from a can. “People don’t realize how much time boats are spending trawling around,” says Jennifer Burney, an environmental scientist at UC San Diego who was not a party to the study, and she’s not surprised to see the high climate costs of crustaceans and large pelagic species. Yet overall, she says, emissions from fishing pale in comparison to industries on land, such as power generation from coal plants.

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Articles (5)

Estimating global agricultural effects of geoengineering using volcanic eruptions

International Journal of Science

Jonathan Proctor, Solomon Hsiang, Jennifer Burney, Marshall Burke, Wolfram Schlenker

2018 Solar radiation management is increasingly considered to be an option for managing global temperatures, yet the economic effects of ameliorating climatic changes by scattering sunlight back to space remain largely unknown. Although solar radiation management may increase crop yields by reducing heat stress, the effects of concomitant changes in available sunlight have never been empirically estimated. Here we use the volcanic eruptions that inspired modern solar radiation management proposals as natural experiments to provide the first estimates, to our knowledge, of how the stratospheric sulfate aerosols created by the eruptions of El Chichón and Mount Pinatubo altered the quantity and quality of global sunlight, and how these changes in sunlight affected global crop yields.

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Robust relationship between air quality and infant mortality in Africa

International Journal of Science

Sam Heft-Neal, Jennifer Burney, Eran Bendavid, Marshall Burke

2018 Poor air quality is thought to be an important mortality risk factor globally but there is little direct evidence from the developing world on how mortality risk varies with changing exposure to ambient particulate matter. Current global estimates apply exposure–response relationships that have been derived mostly from wealthy, mid-latitude countries to spatial population, and these estimates remain unvalidated across large portions of the globe. Here we combine household survey-based information on the location and timing of nearly 1 million births across sub-Saharan Africa with satellite-based estimates of exposure to ambient respirable particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) to estimate the impact of air quality on mortality rates among infants in Africa.

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Cognition impact of sand and dust storms highlights future research needs?

The Lancet Planetary Health

Prashant Bharadwaj, Jennifer Burney

2018 Zhihui Li and colleagues have written a convincing paper establishing the association between prenatal timing and exposure to sand and dust storms and children's cognitive functioning in China. This research is undoubtedly important, given that an estimated 150 parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification are affected in some way by sand and dust storms.

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High Spatial Resolution Visual Band Imagery Outperforms Medium Resolution Spectral Imagery for Ecosystem Assessment in the Semi-Arid Brazilian Sertão

Remote Sensing

Ran Goldblatt, Alexis Rivera Ballesteros, Jennifer Burney

2017 Semi-arid ecosystems play a key role in global agricultural production, seasonal carbon cycle dynamics, and longer-run climate change. Because semi-arid landscapes are heterogeneous and often sparsely vegetated, repeated and large-scale ecosystem assessments of these regions have to date been impossible. Here, we assess the potential of high-spatial resolution visible band imagery for semi-arid ecosystem mapping. We use WorldView satellite imagery at 0.3–0.5 m resolution to develop a reference data set of nearly 10,000 labeled examples of three classes—trees, shrubs/grasses, and bare land—across 1000 km 2 of the semi-arid Sertão region of northeast Brazil.

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Impact of a rural solar electrification project on the level and structure of women’s empowerment

Environmental Research Letters

Jennifer Burney, Halimatou Alaofè, Rosamond Naylor, Douglas Taren

2017 Although development organizations agree that reliable access to energy and energy services—one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals—is likely to have profound and perhaps disproportionate impacts on women, few studies have directly empirically estimated the impact of energy access on women's empowerment. This is a result of both a relative dearth of energy access evaluations in general and a lack of clarity on how to quantify gender impacts of development projects. Here we present an evaluation of the impacts of the Solar Market Garden—a distributed photovoltaic irrigation project—on the level and structure of women's empowerment in Benin, West Africa.

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