Michael Mastrandrea is an interdisciplinary scientist focused on managing climate risks and the design and implementation of energy and climate policy in California and beyond. He is Research Director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program and a Senior Research Scholar at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, as well as Director of Policy at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability Accelerator. He also serves as Chief Advisor for Energy and Climate Research at the California Energy Commission, supporting the R&D and Energy Assessments divisions. Prior to joining Stanford he was Director of Near Zero and a Senior Research Associate at the Carnegie Institution for Science. He was part of the leadership team for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, where he helped lead the development of two international scientific assessments of climate change science and policy options. He has also served as an author for the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment and as an associate editor for the California Fourth Climate Change Assessment. Mastrandrea sits on the Editorial Board and is a Managing Editor for the journal Climatic Change. He holds a Ph.D. from Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, and a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Stanford.

Academic Appointments

  • Sr Research Scholar, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

All Publications

  • Low-intensity fires mitigate the risk of high-intensity wildfires in California's forests. Science advances Wu, X., Sverdrup, E., Mastrandrea, M. D., Wara, M. W., Wager, S. 2023; 9 (45): eadi4123


    The increasing frequency of severe wildfires demands a shift in landscape management to mitigate their consequences. The role of managed, low-intensity fire as a driver of beneficial fuel treatment in fire-adapted ecosystems has drawn interest in both scientific and policy venues. Using a synthetic control approach to analyze 20 years of satellite-based fire activity data across 124,186 square kilometers of forests in California, we provide evidence that low-intensity fires substantially reduce the risk of future high-intensity fires. In conifer forests, the risk of high-intensity fire is reduced by 64.0% [95% confidence interval (CI): 41.2 to 77.9%] in areas recently burned at low intensity relative to comparable unburned areas, and protective effects last for at least 6 years (lower bound of one-sided 95% CI: 6 years). These findings support a policy transition from fire suppression to restoration, through increased use of prescribed fire, cultural burning, and managed wildfire, of a presuppression and precolonial fire regime in California.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.adi4123

    View details for PubMedID 37948522

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10637742

  • Enhancing the review process in global environmental assessments: The case of the IPCC ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & POLICY Palutikof, J. P., Boulter, S. L., Field, C. B., Mach, K. J., Manning, M. R., Mastrandrea, M. D., Meyer, L., Minx, J. C., Pereira, J. J., Plattner, G., Ribeiro, S., Sokona, Y., Stadler, F., Swart, R. 2023; 139: 118-129
  • Accounting for the Greenhouse Gas Emission Intensity of Regional Electricity Transfers. Environmental science & technology Von Wald, G., Cullenward, D., Mastrandrea, M. D., Weyant, J. 2021


    Accurately quantifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is essential for climate policy implementation but challenging in the case of electricity transfers across regulatory jurisdictions. Regulating emissions associated with delivered electricity is further complicated by contractual arrangements for dynamic electricity transfers that confound emission accounting approaches rooted in the physics of grid operations. Here, we propose a novel consumption-based accounting methodology to reconcile the nominal and the physical flows of electricity from generators to consumers. We also compare capacity factor-based and regression-based approaches for estimating default emission factors, in the absence of fully specified nominal electricity flows. As a case study, we apply this approach to assess the methods by which California regulators quantify specified and unspecified electricity imports and their associated GHG emissions. Collectively, these efforts illustrate principles for a comprehensive, empirical accounting framework that could inform efforts to improve the accuracy and consistency of policies regulating regional electricity transfers.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.est.0c08096

    View details for PubMedID 33956448

  • An open-source model of the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade programme with supply-demand scenarios to 2030 CLIMATE POLICY Inman, M., Mastrandrea, M. D., Cullenward, D. 2020; 20 (5): 626–40
  • Assessing California's progress toward its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions limit ENERGY POLICY Mastrandrea, M. D., Inman, M., Cullenward, D. 2020; 138
  • Tracking banking in the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade program (vol 14, 124037, 2019) ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS Cullenward, D., Inman, M., Mastrandrea, M. D. 2019; 14 (12)
  • Tracking banking in the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade program ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS Cullenward, D., Inman, M., Mastrandrea, M. D. 2019; 14 (12)
  • Net-zero emissions energy systems SCIENCE Davis, S. J., Lewis, N. S., Shaner, M., Aggarwal, S., Arent, D., Azevedo, I. L., Benson, S. M., Bradley, T., Brouwer, J., Chiang, Y., Clack, C. M., Cohen, A., Doig, S., Edmonds, J., Fennell, P., Field, C. B., Hannegan, B., Hodge, B., Hoffert, M. I., Ingersoll, E., Jaramillo, P., Lackner, K. S., Mach, K. J., Mastrandrea, M., Ogden, J., Peterson, P. F., Sanchez, D. L., Sperling, D., Stagner, J., Trancik, J. E., Yang, C., Caldeira, K. 2018; 360 (6396): 1419-+


    Some energy services and industrial processes-such as long-distance freight transport, air travel, highly reliable electricity, and steel and cement manufacturing-are particularly difficult to provide without adding carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. Rapidly growing demand for these services, combined with long lead times for technology development and long lifetimes of energy infrastructure, make decarbonization of these services both essential and urgent. We examine barriers and opportunities associated with these difficult-to-decarbonize services and processes, including possible technological solutions and research and development priorities. A range of existing technologies could meet future demands for these services and processes without net addition of CO2 to the atmosphere, but their use may depend on a combination of cost reductions via research and innovation, as well as coordinated deployment and integration of operations across currently discrete energy industries.

    View details for PubMedID 29954954

  • Unleashing expert judgment in assessment GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE-HUMAN AND POLICY DIMENSIONS Mach, K. J., Mastrandrea, M. D., Freeman, P. T., Field, C. B. 2017; 44: 1–14
  • IPCC reasons for concern regarding climate change risks NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE O'Neill, B. C., Oppenheimer, M., Warren, R., Hallegatte, S., Kopp, R. E., Poertner, H. O., Scholes, R., Birkmann, J., Foden, W., Licker, R., Mach, K. J., Marbaix, P., Mastrandrea, M. D., Price, J., Takahashi, K., van Ypersele, J., Yohe, G. 2017; 7 (1): 28–37
  • A multistage crucible of revision and approval shapes IPCC policymaker summaries SCIENCE ADVANCES Mach, K. J., Freeman, P. T., Mastrandrea, M. D., Field, C. B. 2016; 2 (8)

    View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.1600421

    View details for Web of Science ID 000383734300017

    View details for PubMedID 27532046

  • Mapping the climate change challenge NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE Hallegatte, S., Rogelj, J., Allen, M., Clarke, L., Edenhofer, O., Field, C. B., Friedlingstein, P., van Kesteren, L., Knutti, R., Mach, K. J., Mastrandrea, M., Michel, A., Minx, J., Oppenheimer, M., Plattner, G., Riahi, K., Schaeffer, M., Stocker, T. F., Van Vuuren, D. P. 2016; 6 (7): 663-668
  • Understanding and responding to danger from climate change: the role of key risks in the IPCC AR5 CLIMATIC CHANGE Mach, K. J., Mastrandrea, M. D., Bilir, T., Field, C. B. 2016; 136 (3-4): 427–44
  • Towards seaport resilience for climate change adaptation: Stakeholder perceptions of hurricane impacts in Gulfport (MS) and Providence (RI) PROGRESS IN PLANNING Becker, A. H., Matson, P., Fischer, M., Mastrandrea, M. D. 2015; 99: 1-49
  • Summary for Policymakers CLIMATE CHANGE 2014: IMPACTS, ADAPTATION, AND VULNERABILITY, PT A: GLOBAL AND SECTORAL ASPECTS Field, C. B., Barros, V. R., Mastrandrea, M. D., Mach, K. J., Abdrabo, M., Adger, W., Anokhin, Y. A., Anisimov, O. A., Arent, D. J., Barnett, J., Burkett, V. R., Cai, R., Chatterjee, M., Cohen, S. J., Cramer, W., Dasgupta, P., Davidson, D. J., Denton, F., Doell, P., Dow, K., Hijioka, Y., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Jones, R. G., Jones, R. N., Kitching, R. L., Kovats, R., Larsen, J., Lin, E., Lobell, D. B., Losada, I. J., Magrin, G. O., Marengo, J. A., Markandya, A., McCarl, B. A., McLean, R. F., Mearns, L. O., Midgley, G. F., Mimura, N., Morton, J. F., Niang, I., Noble, I. R., Nurse, L. A., O'Brien, K. L., Oki, T., Olsson, L., Oppenheimer, M., Overpeck, J. T., Pereira, J. J., Poloczanska, E. S., Porter, J. R., Poertner, H., Prather, M. J., Pulwarty, R. S., Reisinger, A., Revi, A., Romero-Lankao, P., Ruppel, O. C., Satterthwaite, D. E., Schmidt, D. N., Settele, J., Smith, K. R., Stone, D. A., Suarez, A. G., Tschakert, P., Valentini, R., Villamizar, A., Warren, R., Wilbanks, T. J., Wong, P., Woodward, A., Yohe, G. W., Field, C. B., Barros, V. R., Dokken, D. J., Mach, K. J., Mastrandrea, M. D., Bilir, T. B., Chatterjee, M., Ebi, K. L., Estrada, Y. O., Genova, R. C., Girma, B., Kissel, E. S., Levy, A. N., MacCracken, S., Mastrandrea, P. R., White, L. L. 2014: 1–32
  • Foreword to the special issue: climate change, extremes, and energy systems CLIMATIC CHANGE Mastrandrea, M., Tavoni, M. 2013; 121 (1): 1–2
  • The benefits of climate change mitigation in integrated assessment models: the role of the carbon cycle and climate component CLIMATIC CHANGE Hof, A. F., Hope, C. W., Lowe, J., Mastrandrea, M. D., Meinshausen, M., Van Vuuren, D. P. 2012; 113 (3-4): 897-917
  • Climate change in California: scenarios and approaches for adaptation CLIMATIC CHANGE Mastrandrea, M. D., Luers, A. L. 2012; 111 (1): 5-16
  • Current and future impacts of extreme events in California CLIMATIC CHANGE Mastrandrea, M. D., Tebaldi, C., Snyder, C. W., Schneider, S. H. 2011; 109: 43-70
  • The IPCC AR5 guidance note on consistent treatment of uncertainties: a common approach across the working groups CLIMATIC CHANGE Mastrandrea, M. D., Mach, K. J., Plattner, G., Edenhofer, O., Stocker, T. F., Field, C. B., Ebi, K. L., Matschoss, P. R. 2011; 108 (4): 675-691
  • Treatment of uncertainties in IPCC Assessment Reports: past approaches and considerations for the Fifth Assessment Report CLIMATIC CHANGE Mastrandrea, M. D., Mach, K. J. 2011; 108 (4): 659-673
  • The Politics of Climate Science POLITICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE: A SURVEY, 1ST EDITION Schneider, S. H., Mastrandrea, M. D., Boykoff, M. T. 2011: 11–25
  • Stephen Henry Schneider (1945-2010) OBITUARY NATURE Mastrandrea, M. D. 2010; 466 (7309): 933

    View details for DOI 10.1038/466933a

    View details for Web of Science ID 000281030300025

    View details for PubMedID 20725032

  • Tolerance adaptation and precipitation changes complicate latitudinal patterns of climate change impacts PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Bonebrake, T. C., Mastrandrea, M. D. 2010; 107 (28): 12581-12586


    Global patterns of biodiversity and comparisons between tropical and temperate ecosystems have pervaded ecology from its inception. However, the urgency in understanding these global patterns has been accentuated by the threat of rapid climate change. We apply an adaptive model of environmental tolerance evolution to global climate data and climate change model projections to examine the relative impacts of climate change on different regions of the globe. Our results project more adverse impacts of warming on tropical populations due to environmental tolerance adaptation to conditions of low interannual variability in temperature. When applied to present variability and future forecasts of precipitation data, the tolerance adaptation model found large reductions in fitness predicted for populations in high-latitude northern hemisphere regions, although some tropical regions had comparable reductions in fitness. We formulated an evolutionary regional climate change index (ERCCI) to additionally incorporate the predicted changes in the interannual variability of temperature and precipitation. Based on this index, we suggest that the magnitude of climate change impacts could be much more heterogeneous across latitude than previously thought. Specifically, tropical regions are likely to be just as affected as temperate regions and, in some regions under some circumstances, possibly more so.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0911841107

    View details for Web of Science ID 000279843200035

    View details for PubMedID 20616038

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2906544

  • Bridging the gap: linking climate-impacts research with adaptation planning and management CLIMATIC CHANGE Mastrandrea, M. D., Heller, N. E., Root, T. L., Schneider, S. H. 2010; 100 (1): 87-101
  • Coping with Climate Risks in Indonesian Rice Agriculture: A Policy Perspective UNCERTAINTY AND ENVIRONMENTAL DECISION MAKING: A HANDBOOK OF RESEARCH AND BEST PRACTICE Naylor, R. L., Mastrandrea, M. D., Filar, J. A., Hauer, A. 2010; 138: 127–53
  • Assessing dangerous climate change through an update of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "reasons for concern'' PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Smith, J. B., Schneider, S. H., Oppenheimer, M., Yohe, G. W., Hare, W., Mastrandrea, M. D., Patwardhan, A., Burton, I., Corfee-Morlot, J., Magadza, C. H., Fuessel, H., Pittock, A. B., Rahman, A., Suarez, A., van Ypersele, J. 2009; 106 (11): 4133-4137


    Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [United Nations (1992) Accessed February 9, 2009] commits signatory nations to stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that "would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference (DAI) with the climate system." In an effort to provide some insight into impacts of climate change that might be considered DAI, authors of the Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified 5 "reasons for concern" (RFCs). Relationships between various impacts reflected in each RFC and increases in global mean temperature (GMT) were portrayed in what has come to be called the "burning embers diagram." In presenting the "embers" in the TAR, IPCC authors did not assess whether any single RFC was more important than any other; nor did they conclude what level of impacts or what atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases would constitute DAI, a value judgment that would be policy prescriptive. Here, we describe revisions of the sensitivities of the RFCs to increases in GMT and a more thorough understanding of the concept of vulnerability that has evolved over the past 8 years. This is based on our expert judgment about new findings in the growing literature since the publication of the TAR in 2001, including literature that was assessed in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), as well as additional research published since AR4. Compared with results reported in the TAR, smaller increases in GMT are now estimated to lead to significant or substantial consequences in the framework of the 5 "reasons for concern."

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0812355106

    View details for Web of Science ID 000264278800017

    View details for PubMedID 19251662

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2648893

  • Resource Letter GW-2: Global Warming AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICS Mastrandrea, M. D., Schneider, S. H. 2008; 76 (7): 608-614

    View details for DOI 10.1119/1.2894511

    View details for Web of Science ID 000256639200005

  • Prioritizing climate change adaptation needs for food security in 2030 SCIENCE Lobell, D. B., Burke, M. B., Tebaldi, C., Mastrandrea, M. D., Falcon, W. P., Naylor, R. L. 2008; 319 (5863): 607-610


    Investments aimed at improving agricultural adaptation to climate change inevitably favor some crops and regions over others. An analysis of climate risks for crops in 12 food-insecure regions was conducted to identify adaptation priorities, based on statistical crop models and climate projections for 2030 from 20 general circulation models. Results indicate South Asia and Southern Africa as two regions that, without sufficient adaptation measures, will likely suffer negative impacts on several crops that are important to large food-insecure human populations. We also find that uncertainties vary widely by crop, and therefore priorities will depend on the risk attitudes of investment institutions.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1152339

    View details for Web of Science ID 000252772000037

    View details for PubMedID 18239122

  • Probabilistic assessment "dangerous" climate change and emissions pathways PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Schneider, S. H., Mastrandrea, M. D. 2005; 102 (44): 15728-15735


    Climate policy decisions driving future greenhouse gas mitigation efforts will strongly influence the success of compliance with Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the prevention of "dangerous anthropogenic interference (DAI) with the climate system." However, success will be measured in very different ways by different stakeholders, suggesting a spectrum of possible definitions for DAI. The likelihood of avoiding a given threshold for DAI depends in part on uncertainty in the climate system, notably, the range of uncertainty in climate sensitivity. We combine a set of probabilistic global average temperature metrics for DAI with probability distributions of future climate change produced from a combination of several published climate sensitivity distributions and a range of proposed concentration stabilization profiles differing in both stabilization level and approach trajectory, including overshoot profiles. These analyses present a "likelihood framework" to differentiate future emissions pathways with regard to their potential for preventing DAI. Our analysis of overshoot profiles in comparison with non-overshoot profiles demonstrates that overshoot of a given stabilization target can significantly increase the likelihood of exceeding "dangerous" climate impact thresholds, even though equilibrium warming in our model is identical for non-overshoot concentration stabilization profiles having the same target.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0506356102

    View details for Web of Science ID 000233090900005

    View details for PubMedID 16150711

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC1276072

  • Human-modified temperatures induce species changes: Joint attribution PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Root, T. L., MacMynowski, D. P., Mastrandrea, M. D., Schneider, S. H. 2005; 102 (21): 7465-7469


    Average global surface-air temperature is increasing. Contention exists over relative contributions by natural and anthropogenic forcings. Ecological studies attribute plant and animal changes to observed warming. Until now, temperature-species connections have not been statistically attributed directly to anthropogenic climatic change. Using modeled climatic variables and observed species data, which are independent of thermometer records and paleoclimatic proxies, we demonstrate statistically significant "joint attribution," a two-step linkage: human activities contribute significantly to temperature changes and human-changed temperatures are associated with discernible changes in plant and animal traits. Additionally, our analyses provide independent testing of grid-box-scale temperature projections from a general circulation model (HadCM3).

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0502286102

    View details for Web of Science ID 000229417500014

    View details for PubMedID 15899975

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC1129055

  • Probabilistic integrated assessment of "dangerous" climate change SCIENCE Mastrandrea, M. D., Schneider, S. H. 2004; 304 (5670): 571-575


    Climate policy decisions are being made despite layers of uncertainty. Such decisions directly influence the potential for "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." We mapped a metric for this concept, based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment of climate impacts, onto probability distributions of future climate change produced from uncertainty in key parameters of the coupled social-natural system-climate sensitivity, climate damages, and discount rate. Analyses with a simple integrated assessment model found that, under midrange assumptions, endogenously calculated, optimal climate policy controls can reduce the probability of dangerous anthropogenic interference from approximately 45% under minimal controls to near zero.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000220975100044

    View details for PubMedID 15105496

  • Dynamics of climate and ecosystem coupling: abrupt changes and multiple equilibria PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Higgins, P. A., Mastrandrea, M. D., Schneider, S. H. 2002; 357 (1421): 647-655


    Interactions between subunits of the global climate-biosphere system (e.g. atmosphere, ocean, biosphere and cryosphere) often lead to behaviour that is not evident when each subunit is viewed in isolation. This newly evident behaviour is an emergent property of the coupled subsystems. Interactions between thermohaline circulation and climate illustrate one emergent property of coupling ocean and atmospheric circulation. The multiple thermohaline circulation equilibria that result caused abrupt climate changes in the past and may cause abrupt climate changes in the future. Similarly, coupling between the climate system and ecosystem structure and function produces complex behaviour in certain regions. For example, atmosphere-biosphere interactions in the Sahel region of West Africa lead to multiple stable equilibria. Either wet or dry climate equilibria can occur under otherwise identical forcing conditions. The equilibrium reached is dependent on past history (i.e. initial conditions), and relatively small perturbations to either climate or vegetation can cause switching between the two equilibria. Both thermohaline circulation and the climate-vegetation system in the Sahel are prone to abrupt changes that may be irreversible. This complicates the relatively linear view of global changes held in many scientific and policy communities. Emergent properties of coupled socio-natural systems add yet another layer of complexity to the policy debate. As a result, the social and economic consequences of possible global changes are likely to be underestimated in most conventional analyses because these nonlinear, abrupt and irreversible responses are insufficiently considered.

    View details for DOI 10.1098/rstb.2001.1043

    View details for Web of Science ID 000175905000005

    View details for PubMedID 12079526

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC1692972

  • Integrated assessment of abrupt climatic changes CLIMATE POLICY Mastrandrea, M. D., Schneider, S. H. 2001; 1 (4): 433-449