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Economics and Politics of the Environment

Specialization Advisor(s)

Economics is knowledge concerned with production, consumption, and the transfer of wealth, including allocation of scarce resources and market functions. Politics are activities associated with governance, including the ability to create effective environmental policies. In environmental leadership, both economics and politics are crucial for creating viable solutions to environmental problems such as climate change, environmental injustice, and biodiversity loss. 

Master of Environmental Science and Management students in the Economics and Politics of the Environment (EPE) specialization learn to develop and implement public policies dealing with environmental problems, manage public environmental resources, and work in firms and other organizations that must respond to these policies and management systems. EPE students acquire knowledge about interactions between the public and private sectors and about impacts of political processes on efforts to solve environmental problems.

Students learn how to identify and evaluate policy options and effectively communicate the results to policymakers and regulators. Broadly defined to encompass the full range of issues pertaining to environmental quality and natural resources, the EPE specialization addresses these concerns as they arise from the local region through state and national governments to the international level.

DC capitol building behind trees


Master of Environmental Science and Management students are required to take a minimum of 36 units of electives in their primary specialization. With an advisor’s approval, Bren students may also take courses in other UCSB departments as electives to satisfy specialization requirements. 

ESM courses are offered through the Bren School and most ESM courses are offered every year. Courses marked with an asterisk (*) will be offered every other year. 


Environmental Policy and Law (8 units required)

ESM 225  Water Policy (4 units)
1ESM 229  Economics and Policy of Climate Change (4 units)
ESM 243  Environmental Policy Analysis (4 units)
ESM 248  Environmental Institutions (4 units)
ESM 257  Coastal Marine Policy and Management (4 units)
ESM 277  International Environmental Law (2 units)*
ESM 278  Natural Resources Law and Policy (2 units)*
ESM 294  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Law (2 units)

Economics Courses (8 units required)

1ESM 229 Economics and Policy of Climate Change (4 units)
ESM 242 Natural Resource Economics (4 units)
ESM 245 Cost Benefit Analysis (4 units)

1ESM 229 may satisfy the economics course requirement or the environmental policy and law requirement but not both.

Area of Expertise (12 units required)

Students studying Economic and Politics of the Environment are required to develop expertise (12 units) in an applied area of environmental science and management. EPE students may take courses in another MESM specialization or a combination of courses in a defined specialty at the Bren School or other UCSB departments. Examples of such areas of expertise are food policy, coastal and marine management, water resources management, or climate change policy. EPE students may take courses from science, policy, economics, management and other relevant disciplines within the applied area of expertise.

Technical Skills (4 units required)

ESM 212  Biological Community Survey & Analysis (4 units)
ESM 228  Monitoring and Evaluation (4 units)
ESM 232  Environmental Modeling (4 units)
ESM 244  Advanced Data Analysis (4 units)
ESM 262  Computing for Environmental Science and Management (2 units)
ESM 263  Geographic Information Systems (4 units)
ESM 269  Survey Design and Environmental Public Opinion (2 units)
ESM 271  Carbon Footprints and Carbon Accounting (4 units)
ESM 273  Life Cycle Assessment (4 units)
ESM 284 Sustainable Product Development (4 units)
ESM 287 Energy Demand Analysis (4 units)

Environmental Management (recommended)

ESM 230  Strategic Planning for Non-Profit Ventures (4 units)*
ESM 279  Financial Management and Environmental Accounting (4 units)
ESM 281  Corporate Environmental Management (4 units)
ESM 284 Sustainable Product Development (4 units)

Additional Science (recommended)

ESM 211 Applied Population Ecology (4 units)
ESM 214 Biological Waste Treatment (4 units)*
ESM 215 Landscape Ecology (4 units)
ESM 219 Microbial Processes in the Environment (4 units)*
ESM 222 Pollution Risk Management (4 units)
ESM 224 Sustainable Water Resources Management (4 units)
ESM 226 Groundwater Management (4 units)
ESM 235 Watershed Analysis (4 units)
ESM 237 Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (4 units)
ESM 239 Advanced Climate Science for Policymakers (4 units)*
ESM 240 Climate Change Biology (2 units)*
ESM 254 Coastal Marine Ecosystem Processes (4 units)
ESM 260 Applied Marine Ecology (4 units)
ESM 270 Conservation Planning & Priority Setting (4 units)
ESM 270P Conservation Planning Practicum (4 units)
ESM 282 Pollution Prevention (4 units)
ESM 288 Energy, Technology and the Environment (4 units)
Or fill in relevant science course from other UCSB departments.

Advanced Special Topics (recommended)

Advanced Special Topics courses (variable units) are typically taught by Visiting Professors and Lecturers and may be offered during any quarter of the academic year.

ESM 293  Advanced Special Topics in Climate and Energy
ESM 294  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Law
ESM 296  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Management
ESM 297  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Policy
ESM 299  Advanced Special Topics in Environmental Science
ESM 430  Workshops in Environmental Science and Management

Relevant Courses in other UCSB departments

ECON 114AB  Economic Development
GLOBL 221  Global Political Economy, Sustainable Development and the Environment
GLOBL 235  Organizational Policy & Management
GLOBL 237  Global Organizations & Civil Society
GLOBL 271  Global Environmental Law & Policy
POLS 294  Environmental Politics and Policy

Internship Opportunities

Students gain experience in an industry or sector relevant to career goals through a summer internship. EPE students have taken internships with a wide variety of organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, City of Santa Barbara, United Nations, Rocky Mountain Institute, World Bank Group, Earthwatch Institute, Center for International Policy, New America Foundation, and many other agencies, organizations, and companies.

Research & Special Projects

Students may participate in research directed by Bren faculty through one of the many interdisciplinary research groups at UCSB. 

Group of students sitting at table listening to faculty speak

Are you ready to solve environmental problems?

Request more information, sign up for an admissions webinar, or start your application today.

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