Conference on: Climate Change: Challenges to California's Agriculture and Natural Resources

May 19, 2014
The California Museum
1020 O Street
Sacramento, CA

California is the nation's largest agricultural producer, with an output of $44.7 billion last year. The agricultural industry is a critical component of the Californian economy and it is the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to climate change. Agricultural production is directly linked to climate and therefore will likely be affected by climate change. At the same time agriculture and food consumption are important drivers of environmental pressures, including greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding the impacts of climate change for California’s agriculture and natural resources is paramount for the industry and for policy purposes.

The conference will bring together leading economists, analysts, scientists and policy makers from University of California, the state government, non-profits, and the private sector to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and the associated challenges to California agriculture and natural resources. The speakers and panelists will provide comprehensive, objective, and up-to-date information of the likely impacts of climate change on California’s agricultural economy and its natural resources.


Welcome: Colin Carter, Director, Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics

Opening Remarks: Linda Katehi, Chancellor, University of California, Davis

The Science of Climate Change: Implications for California

Benjamin Santer, Research Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Moderator: Steve Sexton, Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University

Climate Risk and California Agriculture

Moderator: Karen Ross, Secretary of California Department of Food and Agriculture

  • Max Auffhammer, UC Berkeley
  • Daniel Sumner, UC Davis
  • David Zilberman, UC Berkeley

California's Response to Climate Change: Issues and Challenges

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor of the State of California

Will Adaptation Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change?

Moderator: Aaron Smith, Professor, UC Davis

  • Marshall Burke, UC Berkeley
  • Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, Resources for the Future
  • Alan Olmstead, UC Davis

Effects of Climate Change on California's Water Supply

Moderator: Katrina Jessoe, UC Davis

  • Ariel Dinar, UC Riverside
  • Richard Howitt, UC Davis
  • David Sunding, UC Berkeley

Climate in Our Minds, Our Meat, and Our Markets

Greg Dalton, Climate One


Colin A. Carter is professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis and director of the University of California Giannini Foundation. His research focuses on issues related to commodity markets and agricultural trade. He has published extensively on issues related to state trading in agriculture, futures markets, trade remedy law, and the economics of genetically modified crops.

Linda Katehi became the sixth chancellor of the University of California, Davis, in 2009. As chief executive officer, she oversees all aspects of the university’s teaching, research and public service mission, including the UC Davis Health System and its acute-care teaching hospital in Sacramento, one of the nation’s leading medical schools, a new school of nursing and a multi-specialty physician group that serves 33 counties and six million residents.

In addition to her role as Chancellor, Linda Katehi also holds UC Davis faculty appointments in electrical and computer engineering and in women and gender studies. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, she chaired until 2010 the President’s Committee for the National Medal of Science and the Secretary of Commerce’s committee for the National Medal of Technology and Innova­tion. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advance­ment of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a member of many other national boards and committees.

Her work in electronic circuit design has led to numerous national and international awards both as a technical leader and educator, 19 U.S. patents, and several additional U.S. patent applications. She is the author or co-author of 10 book chapters and about 650 refereed publications in journals and symposia proceedings.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece, in 1977, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from UCLA in 1981 and 1984, respectively.

Benjamin Santer is an atmospheric scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). His research focuses on such topics as climate model evaluation, the use of statistical methods in climate science, and the identification of natural and human “fingerprints” in observed climate records. Santer’s early research on the climatic effects of combined changes in greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosols contributed to the historic “discernible human influence” conclusion of the 1995 Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His recent work has attempted to identify human fingerprints in a number of different climate variables, such as tropopause height, atmospheric water vapor, the temperature of the stratosphere and troposphere, ocean heat content, and ocean surface temperatures in hurricane formation regions.

Santer holds a Ph.D. in Climatology from the University of East Anglia, England. After completion of his Ph.D. in 1987, he spent five years at the Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany, where he worked on the development and application of climate fingerprinting methods. In 1992, Santer joined LLNL’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI).

Santer served as Convening Lead Author of the climate-change detection and attribution chapter of the 1995 IPCC report. His awards include a MacArthur Fellowship (1998), the U.S. Department of Energy’s E.O. Lawrence Award (2002), and membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2011). He enjoys rock-climbing, mountaineering, and exploring the beautiful state of California with his wife and son.

Steven Sexton is assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics at North Carolina State University. He received his Ph.D. in 2012 from UC Berkeley. Steve’s research focuses on the economics of renewable energy, including solar and biofuels, as well as the environmental impacts of agricultural biotechnology, fracking, and transportation and climate policy. His research has been published in leading journals such as Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, and Journal of Economic Perspectives. Steve is a regular contributer to the popular Freakonomics blog.

Karen Ross was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture on January 12, 2011 by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Secretary Ross has deep leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and here in California. Prior to joining CDFA, Secretary Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009. Before her time at the United States Department of Agriculture, Secretary Ross served more than thirteen years as President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), based in Sacramento. During that same period she served as the Executive Director of Winegrape Growers of America, a coalition of state winegrower organizations, and as Executive Director of the California Wine Grape Growers Foundation, which sponsors scholarships for the children of vineyard employees. Among Secretary Ross’ many achievements at CAWG was the creation of the nationally-recognized Sustainable Winegrowing Program, which assists wine grape growers in maintaining the long-term viability of agricultural lands and encourages them to provide leadership in protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and enhancing their local communities.

Maximillian Auffhammer is an associate professor at UC Berkeley. Max's research focuses on environmental and resource economics, energy economics, and applied econometrics. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Humboldt Foundation Fellow, and an author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Professor Auffhammer serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management and has been published in numerous academic journals including The American Economic Review, the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, and The Energy Journal.

Daniel A. Sumner is the Frank H. Buck, Jr., Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis and the Director of the University of California, Agricultural Issues Center. He is also the academic director of the California Agribusiness Seminar.  Sumner participates in research, teaching, and directs an outreach program related to public issues facing agriculture. He has published broadly in academic journals, books, and industry outlets. His award winning research and writing focuses particularly on the economics of agriculture and food and agricultural policy.

Prior to beginning returning to California two decades ago, Sumner was the Assistant Secretary for Economics at the United States Department of Agriculture.  In his role as supervisor of Agriculture's economics and statistics agencies, he was responsible for USDAs data collection, outlook and economic research. From 1978 to 1992 Sumner was a professor in the Division of Economics and Business at North Carolina State University. He spent much of the period after 1986 on leave for government service in Washington, D.C. During 1987-88 he was a Senior Economist at the President's Council of Economic Advisers.

Sumner was raised on a fruit farm in Suisun Valley, California and was active in 4-H and FFA activities as a youth. He received a bachelors degree in agricultural management from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo in 1971, a masters degree from Michigan State in 1973, and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago in 1978.

David Zilberman is a professor and holds the Robinson Chair in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California at Berkeley.  Dr. Zilberman’s areas of expertise include agricultural and environmental policy, marketing, risk management, the economics of innovation, natural resources, water, biotechnology, and biofuels.  He is a Fellow of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) and the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, and he has received the AAEA Outstanding Journal Article Award:  Choices (2011), AAEA Publication of Enduring Quality Award (2005, 2010), and the UNESCO International Cannes Prize for Water and the Economy (2000).  He has published 250 refereed articles in Science, the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, among others, and has edited 16 books.  He has served as a Consultant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  He received his B.A. in Economics and Statistics at Tel Aviv University, Israel, and his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley.  He served as Department Chair from 1994 to1999 and has served on the Boards of many organizations, including the AAEA and the Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, as well as on three National Research Council panels.  He is the Co-founder of the International Water Resource Economics Consortium and the International Consortium of Applied Bioeconomy Research.  He established the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program at Berkeley and the Berkeley Master’s of Development Practice.

Aaron Smith is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at University of California, Davis, where he has been since 2001. Originally from New Zealand, he earned his PhD in Economics from the University of California, San Diego. His research addresses commodity market price dynamics. He uses and develops modern statistical methods to measure, explain and predict commodity price fluctuations. Recent project topics include estimating the effects of ethanol production on agricultural and energy markets, understanding commodity booms and busts, and the effects of hedging and speculation in commodity prices.

Marshall Burke is an agricultural economist who has conducted research on the impacts of climate on a range of social outcomes, including agricultural productivity, disease, and conflict. He holds a BA from Stanford, and a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley.

Ariel Ortiz-Bobea is a fellow at Resources for the Future. His current research focuses on agricultural sustainability and resource issues. Much of his recent work has focused on assessing the impacts of climate change on US agriculture and analyzing potential adaptation mechanisms and policies. In general, his research interests include water sustainability, risk management and natural disasters, and genetically modified crops, and the work often involves econometric analysis based on large environmental spatial datasets. His ongoing research suggests that the US agricultural sector has greater room for adaptation to climate change than the economic literature currently indicates, pointing to more optimistic prospects for key areas of the sector. Although Ortiz-Bobea’s contributions are primarily methodological in this area, upcoming research in this area will expand to subtropical areas where climatic constraints are different. Earlier in his career, he served as special assistant to the Minister of the Environment of the Dominican Republic, where he managed the minister's office and support staff and ensured the coordination of key ministry-wide initiatives.

Alan L. Olmstead is Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at University of California, Davis. His recent book with Paul W. Rhode, Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development, examines three centuries of technological advance in American agriculture. His next book also with Paul W. Rhode, Arresting Contagion: Science, Policy, and Conflicts over Animal Disease Control, is forthcoming with Harvard University Press in 2014. Past publications have explored the adaptability of agriculture to climatic challenges. He is an Editor-in-Chief of the 4,500 page Historical Statistics of the United States: Earliest Times to the Present, Millennial Edition. Professor Olmstead has held many administrative and advisory positions in academia and with government and industry and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is a past president of the Economic History Association and the recipient of numerous research awards.

Katrina Jessoe is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, where she specializes in environmental and energy economics. Much of her research centers on the design and evaluation of water regulations, and time variant pricing in the electricity sector. In Katrina’s research, she often collaborates with electric and water utilities, as well as state agencies. Some recent and ongoing projects in the area of water include the design of a randomized field experiment to compare the water savings from various conservation programs, studies on the regulatory design of microbial standards for drinking water, and an assessment of nitrate contamination in the Tulare Basin and Salinas Valley. Professor Jessoe received a BA from Princeton University in 2002 and a PhD in Environmental and Resource
Economics from Yale University in 2009.

Richard Howitt is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, a Principal at ERA Economics, and a faculty member in the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. His research has been published in several major journals, not only in the field of agricultural, resource, and environmental economics, but also in publications outside the scope of economics through his collaboration with other disciplines. He has recently co-authored two books on the Sacramento Delta and a third book on the future of California water management and has served on advisory boards for the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Academy of Sciences. He continues to maintain an active research program through collaboration with the Center for Watershed Sciences and a joint-venture in the consultancy ERA Economics. Dr. Howitt’s fields of interest include resource economics, environmental economics, and quantitative methods.

Ariel Dinar is a professor of Environmental Economics and Policy and the director of the Water Science and Policy Center, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of California, Riverside. He teaches and conducts research on issues related to water economics and policy, climate change economics, strategic behavior in resource allocation, regional cooperation and international water management.

Water Science and Policy Center:
Personal Website:

David Sunding is the Thomas J. Graff Professor in the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, where he is also the Co-Director of the Berkeley Water Center. His research concerns environmental and resource economics, regulation, technological change, applied econometrics, risk and public finance.

Prof. Sunding has won several important awards for his research, including grants from the National Science Foundation, US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, the State of California, and private foundations. He has served on panels of the National Research Council and the US EPA Science Advisory Board. He has advised federal and state government agencies on the development of policies and regulations in the area of natural resources and the environment.

Prof. Sunding earned his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1989. Prior to his current position, he served as a senior economist at President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. He is a member of the American Economic Association, the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, the Econometric Society, and the American Law and Economics Association. An avid mountain biker, he lives in Marin County with his wife and two children.

Greg Dalton, Executive Producer and Host, Climate One. Greg founded Climate One at The Commonwealth Club in 2007 after traveling to the Russian Arctic on a global warming symposium with climate scientists and journalists. Today Climate One produces a weekly radio show broadcast on public stations in Northern California. Greg also hosts a monthly TV show broadcast on KRCB TV 22 on Comcast and DirecTV and a monthly radio show aired on stations around the country.

Climate One is the only regular talk show that engages high level leaders in a conversation about building a sustainable economy and stabilizing the Earth's climate. Past guests include US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, US Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Chevron CEO Dave O'Reilly, GM Chairman Dan Akerson, Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, and many other leaders.

Greg previously was a journalist for 12 years covering news in Beijing, Vancouver, New York and San Francisco for the Associated Press, South China Morning Post, McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and Industry Standard magazine. He holds a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University and a bachelor's in politics from Occidental College.