San Francisco Bay seen from Palo Alto shoreline

Climate Video Challenge

For California middle and high school students

Watch the winning videos!

Climate change is happening now, all around us. We see it in wildfires, heat waves, coastal flooding, and droughts. To protect the people and places that we love, we need to reimagine and rebuild our present and future. We have an opportunity to think differently, to work differently, to engage differently, and to approach climate change in a fair and just way for all Californians. With this goal in mind, the California Coastal Commission invites California middle and high school students to present a video response to the question:


Entry deadline was: March 31, 2021. Stay tuned for next year's details.

Not all Californians experience pollution and climate change equally. Low-income communities, people of color, indigenous people, people with disabilities, older or very young people, women—all can be more susceptible to risks posed by climate change. Having fewer burdens and greater wealth, for example, can make it easier to adapt and respond to climate changes. Climate justice is a concept that focuses on addressing the unequal burdens of climate change and working toward equity in climate change solutions.

Though we are not all equally responsible for causing climate change, thinking about what we can do to limit it and prepare for the changes that are on the horizon requires all of us to work together. At the community level, for example, we can think about how much fossil fuel we use when we travel, how we protect public beaches for recreation, how our food is grown and how far it travels before we eat it, where our energy comes from, and whether our community supports "green" jobs. What do these systems look like in your vision of climate justice, and how do they work for your community?

Read more about climate justice from Yale Climate Connections.

Climate justice is related to the concept of environmental justice, which is explored in this video from Grist. Learn more about environmental justice and access related classroom lessons for educators.

You can also enter your video in the California Student Media Festival, sponsored this year by California State Parks. Learn more.

Click on the titles below to read more.

  • Rules, Tips, and How to Enter

      Smiling people doing habitat restoration in wetland
    • Video will be a maximum of three minutes long. Enter on your own, or as a group of no more than five film makers. (You might have more people involved in the project—for instance, you might have more actors—but the "film maker" is the person or people primarily responsible for the project who will be recognized if the video is chosen as a winner.) If entering as a group, one person must be designated as the main contact to answer any questions and receive the contest prize on behalf of the others if your video is chosen. Pick a film maker who's good at responding promptly to email. We'll also need a mailing address for that person (which can be in care of their school if necessary). Film makers must be middle school or high school level students in California, in school or homeschooled. You may enter as part of a class project or independently.
    • Upload your finished video to Youtube, and be prepared to submit your video file directly to us if your entry is selected as a finalist. Don't mark your video "Private," because we won't be able to see it if you do. (The minimum age for a Youtube account is 13. Videos can be uploaded to an account owned by the contest entrant or by a teacher or other adult. If uploading to Youtube presents a problem for you, please contact us for an alternative method.)
    • Follow the instructions on How to Enter (Word or PDF). Each film maker will need to complete the Consent, Waiver of Liability, and Release form, and if it's possible to recognize someone's face in your video, they must complete a Right to Use Video Likeness form. (If you don't have access to a printer and need copies mailed to you, email By entering, you grant the California Coastal Commission non-exclusive ownership of the video, meaning that we can use it on our website, social media, and elsewhere, but you can also continue to use it. Students may enter only one video in this year's challenge.
    • Prizes may be offered to the top three entries: $200 for 1st place, $150 for 2nd place, $100 for 3rd place. You may enter as an individual or a group, but one prize will be offered per winning entry. Videos will be judged by a panel of experts from a variety of disciplines.
    • Use a horizontal orientation ("landscape" rather than "portrait") when filming your video. Get more video production tips.
    • If you include music in your video, only use music that is your own composition or that is copyright free (or Public Domain or Creative Commons). Some sources of available music include the Youtube Audio Library, the Free Music Archive, and Musopen. Include all necessary credits at the end of your video.
    • If you include images in your video (like photographs or charts) that you didn't create yourself, you must clearly and properly credit the sources either on the image or at the end of your video. For example, if you use a graph you found on a NASA website, make sure you credit NASA as the source. Avoid focusing on brand name items in your video.
    • If your video includes language other than English, please provide English subtitles OR English translations in the description box on YouTube. If you would like to add English subtitles to your video, check out this how-to guide. Note: translations do not have to be 100% perfect, but should be accurate enough to understand in English. Google Translate is fine to use.
    • What kind of video should you make? You could make a music video of an original song; you could create an animation; you could film a special place and add voice over; you could interview family about ancestral traditions or a community leader about city planning; you could create an advertisement for your climate justice vision; you could act out and film a story; you can go where your imagination takes you, as long as you are answering the question: What Does Climate Justice Look Like to Me?
    • Photo of people on the beach jumping for joy

      Thank you to the Climate Challenge Judges, who include:

      Noah Christman, Director of Public Programming, San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association

      Whitney Cohen, Education Director of Life Lab and a lecturer at UC Santa Cruz

      Tony Hale, PhD, Program Director for Environmental Informatics, San Francisco Estuary Institute

      Chris Neighbors, Producer

      Elena Perez, Environmental Resilience Lead at the World Economic Forum

      Amee Raval, Senior Policy Researcher at Asian Pacific Environmental Network

      And California Coastal Commission staff

  • What do you mean by climate change?

      San Francisco's Embarcadero flooding during a King Tide
    • Climate change is caused when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, releasing carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon dioxide (also called CO2) acts like a heat-trapping blanket over the earth which thickens as we continue to burn fossil fuels, warming the atmosphere, land, and ocean. While a regular amount of CO2 is given off by animals and used by plants as part of a natural, balanced process, we are adding a rampant amount of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels. This rampant carbon dioxide causes global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, extreme weather, and more frequent and severe wildfires.

      Some things you might consider:
      • Talking about climate change is important. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication showed that while 72% of Americans surveyed in 2020 understand that global warming is happening, 65% never discuss global warming with others. Only 57% of Americans surveyed understand that climate change is caused by people, and 57% think it won't harm them personally. As you explore the Yale Climate Opinion Map, does it lead you to new questions or conclusions about climate justice?
      • Eliminating the use of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas will slow and reduce the impacts of climate change. The United States gets 80% of its total energy from coal, oil, and natural gas for uses like heating, transportation, manufacturing, and electricity. In California, almost half of electricity is from renewable sources, but that varies widely depending on your local community's resources and choices. In 2018, California passed a law to end the use of fossil fuels for electricity by 2045. Do you think this law will help get to your vision of climate justice? You can find information on California's oil refineries and renewable energy resources from the California Energy Commission, and explore a map of oil and gas wells and related facilities from the California Department of Conservation. Do these resources lead you to new questions or conclusions about climate justice?
      • While we work to reduce our use of fossil fuels, it's important to responsibly plan for a future of climate change. Sea level is rising, although the amount it will rise depends on how fast we eliminate CO2 emissions. Learn about sea level rise in California and how the choices coastal communities make today will have a big impact on what our coast looks like tomorrow. How is the response to and planning for sea level rise on the California coast a climate justice issue?
      • According to the US EPA, transportation is the largest source of heat-trapping gases in the United States, at 28% of the total. Emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuel for cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes. What methods of more sustainable transportation are available in your community? How could your community reduce the distance traveled for things like work, shopping, and fun? What do you think climate justice looks like as it relates to transportation?
      • We can help protect coastal communities and habitat from sea level rise and increasing storms through nature-based projects including dune and wetland restoration. Beaches (which are important public recreation lands as well as serving as habitat and flood protection) can move inland as sea level rises unless hard structures are in the way of that movement. How is the potential loss of public beaches a climate justice issue?
      • We can pull CO2 out of the air (a process called carbon sequestration) through activities like tree planting, carbon farming, kelp restoration, and wetlands conservation. Many of these actions have other benefits for natural and human communities. How might projects like these relate to climate justice?
      • California's increasingly dangerous and prolonged fire season is connected to climate change. Read about the connection and the impacts in Yale Climate Connections and National Geographic articles. UC Santa Barbara's ENVENT Lab has produced climate fact sheets on a number of topics including the connection between climate change and wildfires. How is wildfire and the resulting smoke a climate justice issue?
      • Project Drawdown is a research organization that identifies, analyzes, and reviews global climate solutions. Find their ranked list of solutions linking to information about each of them. Do any of these solutions exist in your vision of climate justice?
      • King tides flood the street in Imperial Beach
  • Why the California Coastal Commission?

    • The California Coastal Commission is a state agency that has protected and enhanced the California coast for everyone since 1972. The Coastal Act gives the Commission the authority to "protect, conserve, restore, and enhance" the state's coastal resources. As a result, the Commission must consider climate change, including global warming and sea level rise, in its work to help reduce heat-trapping gas emissions and the detrimental impacts of global warming on the California coast.
    • Kelp forest off Anacapa Island, photo by Dan Zarate
Questions? Email