Publication Date

Fall 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Costanza Rampini; Bo Yang; Matthew Clark


California is experiencing the harmful impacts of climate change and will continue to do so for generations. As a result, municipalities have been forced to turn to adaptation solutions to help local residents adjust to inevitable impacts such as sea level rise, extreme heat, and extreme weather. Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA), the use of nature and ecosystem services to help human systems adapt to climate change impacts, is an increasingly popular, cost-effective, and multi-benefit adaptation strategy. While prior research has shown that other forms of adaptation, often referred to as ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ strategies, disproportionately benefit whiter and wealthier populations, there has been little research on the equitability of EbAs and their outcomes. This study examines the distribution and characteristics of EbAs in Santa Clara County (SCC) and San Mateo County (SMC) through a climate justice lens. It uses content analysis of EbA project documents and GIS mapping to answer the question “where and why do EbA projects take place in California?” The results show that EbAs are not equitably distributed in SCC and SMC, and that predominantly White areas are home to nearly half of the EbAs. At the same time, EbAs located within low-income and minority communities, especially predominantly Hispanic ones, have longer construction times, potentially causing harm to people residing near these projects. Also, many EbAs are located in areas that have been gentrified, or are at risk of gentrification, raising the question of whether EbA projects contribute to green gentrification. This study ends with suggestions for municipal agencies, planners, and future researchers interested in equitable EbA strategies.