University of California - Irvine
Dr. Michael Méndez is an assistant professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of California, Irvine and Visiting Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). He previously was the inaugural James and Mary Pinchot Faculty Fellow in Sustainability Studies and Associate Research Scientists at the Yale School of the Environment. 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, a member of the California State Mining & Geology Board, and as vice chair of the Sacramento City Planning Commission. In 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Dr. Mendez to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. The board regulates water quality in a region of 11 million people. Dr. Mendez 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 National Geographic, Los Angeles Times, Politico, NPR, Bloomberg News, USA Today; and Fox Latino News. His new award-winning 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. The book was the winner of the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award, sponsored by the International Studies Association (ISA), and a finalist for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning’s John Friedmann Book Award. Dr. Méndez’s new research focuses on climate-induced disasters and social vulnerability. This research has been supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Faculty Award. In conjunction with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), this project explores the disparate impacts of extreme wildfire, heatwave, and drought events on undocumented Latina/o and Indigenous migrants.