Prof. Davis works to understand and find ways to meet the challenge of satisfying global demand for energy, food, and goods without emitting carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
He is interested in studies of coupled human and natural systems and sustainable systems analysis, including: energy technology and policy; of pollution and resources embodied in international trade; of socio-economic inertia and “lock-in” of environmental problems; and of the complex interactions of energy systems, agriculture, climate change, and global ecology.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Highly Cited Researcher (professional)
ESA Sustainability Science Award (professional)
AGU James B. Macelwane Medal (professional)
Cozzarelli Prize (professional)
Stanford University: PhD, Geological and Environmental Sciences 2008
Virginia School of Law, University of Virginia: JD 2001
University of Florida: BA, Political Science and Philosophy 1998
Phi Beta Kappa
- AGU Mentoring Network : Mentor
- IPCC : Contributing Author of AR6
- Global Carbon Project : Member of Scientific Steering Committee
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Geophysical Union : Fellow
- State Bar of California
Media Appearances (15)
Those long, thin clouds you see behind planes are contrails – not ‘chemtrails’
The first-ever peer-reviewed study on chemtrails was conducted by researchers with the University of California, Irvine and the Carnegie Institute for Science. The research team determined that conducting an official scientific study on chemtrails was important because the only available information on chemtrails came from government agencies, which led to public confusion and skepticism. The findings were published in 2016. "We wanted to establish a scientific record on the topic of secret atmospheric spraying programs [chemtrails] for the benefit of those in the public who haven't made up their minds," said [professor] Steven Davis of UC Irvine. … "The experts we surveyed resoundingly rejected contrail photographs and test results as evidence of a large-scale atmospheric conspiracy,” Davis said.
Wildfires in Northern Forests Broke Carbon Emissions Records in 2021
Inside Climate News online
Overall, wildfire emissions are increasing. In 2021, however, fires in boreal forests spewed an “abnormally vast amount of carbon,” releasing 150 percent of their annual average from the preceding two decades, the study published earlier this month in the journal Science said. That’s twice what global aviation emitted that year, said author Steven Davis, a professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, in a press release. … “The boreal region is so important because it contains such a huge amount of carbon,” said Yang Chen, an assistant researcher at UC Irvine and one of the study’s authors. “The fire impact on this carbon releasing could be very significant.”
Wildfires across the United States and around the world have emitted a record amount of carbon dioxide
List 23 online
Carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires have increased to an all-time high in 2021, according to an international team headed by Earth system scientists at the University of California, Irvine. According to a scientific paper published in Science, roughly 1.76 billion tons of CO2, equivalent to nearly half a gigaton of carbon, were released into the atmosphere in North America and Eurasia in 2021, compared to the average annual CO2 emissions observed between 2000 and 2020. Boreal fires in 2021 have shattered previous records, according to senior co-author Steven Davis, an UCI professor of Earth system science. "These fires are the result of two decades of rapid warming and severe drought in Northern Canada and Siberia coming to roost, and unfortunately this new record might not last long."
Record-high carbon dioxide emissions from boreal fires
Chemistry World online
There were record-high carbon dioxide emissions from boreal forest fires in Northern Canada and Siberia in 2021 continuing a trend that has been going on since at least 2000 … ‘Boreal forests could be a time bomb of carbon, and the recent increases in wildfire emissions we see make me worry the clock is ticking,’ said study co-author Steven Davis, an earth science professor at University of California, Irvine.
Boreal fire emissions surged in 2021, study says
Cabin Radio online
Although emissions in 2021 were extreme, they follow an increasing trend over recent decades. “The fires and the emissions are really two decades-worth of warming and increasingly extreme conditions coming to roost,” said Steven Davis, professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, who was involved in the research.
We need at least $1 trillion worth of offset to make the aviation industry carbon neutral
ZME Science online
A new study out of the University of California, Irvine (UCI) says this is actually a plausible scenario. There’s one catch though: it will cost $1 trillion in carbon offsetting. Researchers led by Steven Davis, [professor of Earth system science], looked at several pathways that the aviation industry could take to reach net zero. Some of these scenarios were optimistic, taking into account several significant contributions toward net zero, including reduced demand for air travel, substituting jet fuel for biofuels, and technology improvements such as hydrogen-powered and electric aircraft.
Record-breaking amount of CO2 released by wildfires in 2021
According to a new study led by the University of California, Irvine (UCI), carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires – which have been gradually increasing since the beginning of the 21st century – spiked dramatically to a record high in 2021. The experts report that nearly 1.76 billion tons of CO2 were released from burning boreal forests in North America and Eurasia – 150 percent higher than the annual average emissions between 2000 and 2020. “According to our measurements, boreal fires in 2021 shattered previous records,” said study senior co-author Steven Davis, a professor of Earth System Science at UCI. “These fires are two decades of rapid warming and extreme drought in Northern Canada and Siberia coming to roost, and unfortunately even this new record may not stand for long.”
Record-Breaking Boreal Fires May Be a Climate ‘Time Bomb’
Scientific American online
Boreal forest fires in northern Eurasia and North America — including parts of Canada, Alaska and Siberia — spewed record-breaking levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2021, new research finds. In a typical year, these northern blazes account for about 10 percent of the planet’s wildfire-related carbon emissions. But in 2021, their share skyrocketed to 23 percent. … “Boreal forests could be a time bomb of carbon, and the recent increases in wildfire emissions we see make me worry the clock is ticking,” said study co-author Steven Davis, an earth system [professor] at the University of California, Irvine, in a statement.
Carbon emissions from boreal forest fires rose in 2021
Associated Press online
Fires … in North American and Eurasian boreal forests created historic amounts of climate-changing carbon dioxide in 2021, according to a new study Thursday in the journal Science. … “This warming that’s massing in the Arctic and boreal regions is going to continue,” said [study co-author] Steve Davis, [professor of Earth system science], a climate scientist at the University of California, Irvine. “So we’re what we’re worried about is that it’s not actually an anomaly. It’s like the new normal. And there’s going to be a lot of these boreal forests burning in the coming years.”.
Boreal forests could be a planet-warming ‘time bomb’ as wildfires expand, says new study
The world’s most northerly forests could be a “time bomb” of planet-warming pollution as expanding wildfires have released record high levels of planet-heating pollution into the atmosphere, according to a new study. … “Boreal forests could be a time bomb of carbon, and the recent increases in wildfire emissions we see make me worry the clock is ticking,” said study author Steven Davis, a professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, in a press release.
The future of flight in a net-zero-carbon world: 9 scenarios, lots of sustainable biofuel
The Conversation online
Steve Davis, UCI professor of Earth system science and Candelaria Bergero, UCI Ph.D. student in Earth system science write, “In a new study, we examined different options for aviation to reach net-zero emissions and assessed how air travel could continue without contributing to climate change. The bottom line: Each pathway has important trade-offs and hurdles. Replacing fossil jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuels will be crucial, but the industry will still need to invest in direct-air carbon capture and storage to offset emissions that can’t be cut.”
A look at 11 key Senate races where Republican candidates give the finger to climate scientists
Daily Kos online
Steven J. Davis, a professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, said in an email that the “way countries and regions improve their air quality is by reducing emissions of criteria pollutants.” Davis is a co-author of a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found as much as 12% to 24% of sulfate pollution over the western U.S. comes from export-related Chinese air pollution.
California’s grid is about to get an overhaul. It needs it.
Now, it’s ramping up its climate science bona fides. The company just announced a big get: Steve Davis, professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, has joined Watershed as the company’s new head of climate science. He’s responsible for improving the vetting process for its marketplace of decarbonization offerings as well as improving the accuracy of its carbon footprint measurement technology.
We Are Wasting Time on These Climate Debates. The Next Steps Are Clear.
The New York Times online
Unfortunately, debates about distant future decisions and future uncertainties are distracting advocates, policymakers, researchers and the public from their shared, near-term goals. At best, these disputes give observers — especially policymakers and their advisers, who are trying to make tough short-term decisions during a global energy security crisis — a misleading impression that experts disagree about effective steps to decarbonize energy systems. At worst, these disputes can stall progress by delaying policies and incentives that would accelerate clean energy deployment.
Majority of the Electricity from Industrialized Nations Come from Wind and Solar Power Sources, New Study Says
Nature World News online
"Wind and solar could meet more than 80 percent of demand in many places without crazy amounts of storage or excess generating capacity, which is the critical point," says Earth system scientist Steven Davis from the University of California, Irvine (UCI).
Climate adaptation by crop migrationNature Communications
Lindsey L. Sloat, Steven J. Davis, James S. Gerber, Frances C. Moore, Deepak K. Ray, Paul C. West, Nathaniel D. Mueller
2020 Many studies have estimated the adverse effects of climate change on crop yields, however, this literature almost universally assumes a constant geographic distribution of crops in the future. Movement of growing areas to limit exposure to adverse climate conditions has been discussed as a theoretical adaptive response but has not previously been quantified or demonstrated at a global scale.
Impacts of ozone and climate change on yields of perennial crops in CaliforniaNature Food
Chaopeng Hong, Nathaniel D. Mueller, Jennifer A. Burney, Amir AghaKouchak Yang Zhang, Frances C. Moore, Yue Qin, Dan Tong, Steven J. Davis
2020 Changes in temperature and air pollution affect agricultural productivity, but most relevant research has focused on major annual crops (for example, wheat, maize, soy and rice). In contrast, relatively little is known about the effects of climate change and air quality on perennial crops such as fruits and nuts, which are important to dietary diversity and nutrition, and represent ~38% of California’s agriculture by economic value.
Climate effects of aerosols reduce economic inequalityNature Climate Change
Yixuan Zheng, Steven J. Davis, Geeta G. Persad, Ken Caldeira
2020 The climate effects of anthropogenic aerosols have masked some of the warming induced by GHGs1 along with some impacts of that warming2. These temperature effects may be beneficial but are almost certainly overwhelmed by aerosols’ negative health impacts3. Recent analyses of economic impacts have concluded that warming harms economies in warm climates, but provides economic benefits in cold climates.
Global urban expansion offsets climate-driven increases in terrestrial net primary productivityNature Communications
Xiaoping Liu, Fengsong Pei, Youyue Wen, Xia Li, Changjiang Wu Shaojian Wang, Yiling Cai, Jianguo Wu, Jun Chen, Klaus Hubacek Kuishuang Feng, Junguo Liu, Steven J. Davis, Wenping Yuan, Le Yu, Zhu Liu
2019 The global urbanization rate is accelerating; however, data limitations have far prevented robust estimations of either global urban expansion or its effects on terrestrial net primary productivity (NPP). Here, using a high resolution dataset of global land use/cover (GlobeLand30), we show that global urban areas expanded by an average of 5694 km2 per year between 2000 and 2010.
Inequality of household consumption and air pollution-related deaths in ChinaNature Communications
Hongyan Zhao, Guannan Geng, Qiang Zhang, Steven J Davis, Xin Li, Yang Liu, Liqun Peng, Meng Li, Bo Zheng, Hong Huo, Lin Zhang, Daven K Henze, Zhifu Mi, Zhu Liu, Dabo Guan, Kebin He
2019 Substantial quantities of air pollution and related health impacts are ultimately attributable to household consumption. However, how consumption pattern affects air pollution impacts remains unclear. Here we show, of the 1.08 (0.74–1.42) million premature deaths due to anthropogenic PM2.5 exposure in China in 2012, 20% are related to household direct emissions through fuel use and 24% are related to household indirect emissions embodied in consumption of goods and services.