hero image
Michael Mendez - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Michael Mendez

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy | UC Irvine


Michael Mendez has experience in the public and private sectors, where he consulted and actively engaged in the policymaking process.



Michael Mendez Publication



loading image loading image loading image


GradCAMP Speaker Series: Dr. Michael Mendez: Environmental and Climate Justice in California Climate Change fromt the Streets - Michael Mendez, University of California MICHAEL MÉNDEZ: CLIMATE CHANGE FROM THE STREETS// 04.24.23 Redford Conservancy Fall Lecture: Julie Sze and Michael Méndez NDEL 2020 Conf: Keynote | Michael Méndez




Dr. Michael Mendez is an assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine. He previously was the inaugural James and Mary Pinchot Faculty Fellow in Sustainability Studies at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Michael has more than a decade of senior-level experience in the public and private sectors, where he consulted and actively engaged in the policymaking process. This included working for the California State Legislature as a senior consultant, lobbyist, gubernatorial appointee, and as vice chair of the Sacramento City Planning Commission.

​During his time at UC Irvine and Yale, he has contributed to state and national research policy initiatives, including serving as an advisor to a California Air Resources Board member, and as a participant of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s workgroup on “Climate Vulnerability and Social Science Perspectives.” Most recently, Michael was appointed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to the Board on Environmental Change and Society (BECS). He also serves as a panel reviewer for the National Academies of Sciences’ Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP).

Michael holds three degrees in environmental planning and policy, including a PhD from UC Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning, and a graduate degree from MIT. His research on the intersection of climate change and communities of color has been featured in national publications including Urban Land (published by the Urban Land Institute); the Natural Resources Defense Fund Annual Report; the American Planning Association’s Planning Magazine; Green 2.0: Leadership at Work; USA Today; and Fox Latino News. His new book “Climate Change from the Streets,” published through Yale University Press (2020), is an urgent and timely story of the contentious politics of incorporating environmental justice into global climate change policy.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Global climate change policy

Environmental Planning

Public Policy

Legislative Relations

Climate Change

Accomplishments (5)

Paul Davidoff Book Award (professional)

2023 Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP)

Practice and Outreach Award (professional)

2023 American Sociological Association (ASA) - Section on Environmental Sociology

Latino/a Water Pioneers, Leaders & Heroes Award (professional)

2023 Mujeres de la Tierra in collaboration with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Water Replenishment District

Harold & Margaret Sprout Award (professional)

2021 International Studies Association

Betty & Alfred McClung Lee Award (professional)

2021 Association for Humanist Sociology

Education (3)

University of California, Berkeley: PhD, Science and Technology Studies and Environmental Policy 2015

Department of City and Regional Planning

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MCP, Environmental Planning and Policy

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

California State University, Northridge: BA, Urban Studies and Planning

Media Appearances (7)

Parents, climate advocates emphasize equity and inclusivity in “greening” of LAUSD schools

KABC  online


UCI Assistant Professor [of urban planning & public policy] Michael Méndez said LAUSD has done an adequate job of engaging parents and stakeholders in green schools and climate resiliency projects. Still, he and the Alliance for a Better Community are advocating for more inclusive and equitable efforts. "Groups that Alliance for a Better Community works with – largely non-English speaking non-US born immigrant parents – are often left out of that community engagement project" said Méndez. They released a new report with recommendations.

view more

Same-Sex Couples Face Higher Climate Change Risks, New UCLA Study Shows

KQED  online


The new research moves the needle in helping the nation understand who is at risk of climate disasters, UC Irvine [assistant professor of urban planning and public policy] Michael Méndez said. He previously studied how queer communities are often left out of disaster planning. “The needle is moving slowly,” Méndez said. “These disasters are not happening in isolation. If an individual is feeling discrimination, or a lack of safety in their home and a disaster happens, they can feel even more vulnerable.” But what Méndez said the study doesn’t reveal is who the same-sex couples are in terms of race, income and their positions in society.

view more

Hotter temperatures mean higher utility costs for millions of Americans

CBS News  online


Michael Mendéz, a climate change researcher and assistant professor at University of California, Irvine, added that many communities around the country can see extreme temperatures for as many as 10 months a year. "Because of this, individuals have to pay higher utility bills to maintain a comfortable home. Particularly those on fixed incomes and that are lower-income are making the choice between keeping their household cooler or paying grocery bills," Mendéz said. So it's having a significant impact on households and their ability to pay for other basic necessities, like groceries."

view more

How urban heat islands make the impacts of excessive heat worse

PBS  online


Living in certain parts of a city can make the impacts of extreme heat worse. That’s because of a phenomenon called the urban heat island effect. A recent report by the research group Climate Central showed that more than 40 million Americans live in these hot spots. William Brangham discussed what this means for those residents with Michael Mendez of the University of California, Irvine.

view more

In California, Climate Change Fuels Disasters—and a Push For More Farmworker Protections

Modern Farmer  online


Michael Méndez, an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine, who has studied the health effects of wildfires on farmworkers, says that one-off disaster reimbursement programs are a step forward but ultimately insufficient now that the impacts of climate change are so apparent.

view more

UCI’s Michael Méndez is named a 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow

UCI News  online


The University of California, Irvine’s Michael Méndez has been named to the 2022 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. The assistant professor of urban planning and public policy joins an exclusive cohort of 28 distinguished individuals nationwide selected from nearly 300 nominees. Each will receive $200,000 for a research sabbatical focused on their study in the social sciences or humanities – the most generous stipend of its type.

view more

The 10 Books That Scientists Say Can Make A Difference In The Climate Crisis

HuffPost  online


"Climate Change from the Streets: How Conflict and Collaboration Strengthen the Environmental Justice Movement" by Michael Méndez. Michael Méndez is an assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine. In his debut book, Méndez offers a platform to those most impacted by extreme climate change and their efforts to effect real climate policy changes.

view more

Research Grants (3)

2024 Seed Funding Opportunity for Mobilities to Mexico

University of California $41,000


2024 Integrated and Equitable Climate Action (Land Use Planning and environmental Justice)

University of California, Office of the President $340,000

2023 -2026

Newkirk Faculty Fellow

University of California Irvine, Newkirk Center for Science & Society $5000


Articles (5)

Climate Change, Migration, and Health Disparities at and Beyond the US-Mexico Border


2024 In 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that weather-related events had displaced approximately 21.5 million people worldwide each year between 1999 and 2019, more than twice the number of people displaced by conflict and violence.

view more

Connecting physical and social science datasets: challenges and pathways forward

Environmental Research Communications

2023 The integration of physical and social science data can enable novel frameworks, methodologies, and innovative solutions important for addressing complex socio-environmental problems. Unfortunately, many technical, procedural, and institutional challenges hamper effective data integration—detracting from interdisciplinary socio-environmental research and broader public impact.

view more

Understanding Challenges to Health Equity in Climate Action and Land Use Planning

American Journal of Public Health (AJPH)

2023 Cole et al. (p. 185 in this issue of AJPH) argue that health equity is crucial to addressing the human health consequences of climate change. They underscore how effective climate action requires meaningful public engagement processes focused on increasing community capacity and the power to reduce health disparities in marginalized neighborhoods.

view more

Only One Earth: Global health and climate justice on world environment day and beyond

World Medical & Health Policy

2022 The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened and exposed existing health vulnerabilities and the race and class disproportionalities associated with health, economic, and social resource access. COVID-19 has revealed the depths to which inequities are entrenched in our everyday lives and local, national, and global structures.

view more

Queer and present danger: understanding the disparate impacts of disasters on LGBTQ+ communities


2021 LGBTQ+ communities comprise 16 million individuals in the United States, yet this population is often rendered invisible within disaster policies. Bias in federal disaster response programmes, a lack of recognition of LGBTQ+ families, and the prevalence of faith-based organisations in disaster relief services together heighten the risks that LGBTQ+ individuals face.

view more