Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future [Not!]

Books you don’t have to read past the title, Part 2

UPDATE2:  This is not a full review, but a debunking of the primary thesis of the book on the basis of information anyone can access online.  I have now read the book and can say with full confidence that what is online is not entirely representative of the book:  It is even worse than I describe here, with, for instance, some egregious numerical errors and inconsistencies, as I’ll discuss in later posts. In the meantime, you can read this detailed review, “A Fantasy Future,” at the American Scientist by a leading expert on the impact of climate change on cities, who concludes the book “fails on the most important criterion: a good knowledge of the topic under discussion.”

UPDATE1:  The author comments here and I reply.  The author has yet more comments below, including a morbid bet that I reject.

So many bad climate books, so little time.  How thoughtful, then, of an author to save everybody time with a title that lets you know whether or not you should read it.

Of course, the champion of books you don’t have to read past the title is Fred Singer’s lame anti-science treatist, Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years.  As I noted in “Unstoppable disinformation every 15 minutes from Fred Singer,” the most absurd thing about the book is that the Earth wasn’t actually in a warm trend “” unstoppable or otherwise “” 1500 years ago!  Doh.  [Yes, during the Medieval Warm Period, parts of the earth were a bit warmer, but that peaked (below current temperatures) 1,000 years ago.]

And now we have another time-saving title, from UCLA environmental economist Matthew Kahn, Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future.  Uhh, no — see “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery.”

A key “thesis” of this book is that people will just move to northern cities and be fine.  To see how poorly thought out this notion is just start searching the book on Amazon for northern cities.  Yes, the obvious first choice is Moscow, where you will learn on page 7 … wait for it …  “Moscow is unlikely to suffer from extreme heat waves.”  Talk about your badly timed books (see Media wakes up to Hell and High Water: Moscow’s 1000-year heat wave and “Pakistan’s Katrina”).

On page 75 he says “Moscow scores high on my list.”  He just seems to miss the point that climate change means extreme weather events on top of a moving average.  But then he has done precious little actual research into the science.

You can read an interview with Kahn on Grist, “Don’t like the climate? Move to Fargo, says author of ‘Climatopolis’.”  I actually thought this was one of Grist’s jokey headlines, but you can search the book for “Fargo.”  On page 51 you’ll learn:

The current residents of North Dakota’s cities, such as Fargo, might not be too happy about having loud-mouthed New Yorkers moves [sic] in by the millions….

As Brad Johnson noted last year:

North Dakota’s climate is beginning to spiral out of control. In the last twenty years, Red River floods expected to occur at Fargo only once every ten years have happened every two to three years. 2009’s unprecedented flooding made it the third year in a row with at least a “ten-year flood.”

In fact, 2009 was the eighth “ten-year flood” of Fargo since 1989.  They just don’t make 10-year floods like they used to.

So I’m skeptical that millions of New Yorkers will be rushing to the likes of Fargo, with its metropolitan population of 200,000.

On page 33, Kahn calls Salt Lake City, Utah a “climate safe city.”  The southwestern city appears to be one of Kahn’s favorites.  “Salt Lake City cannot flood” he writes.  No, I don’t think too much water is going to be the problem.

In a terrific March presentation, Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe has a figure of what staying on the business as usual emissions path (A1F1 or 1000 ppm) would mean (derived from the NOAA-led report):

Hey, looks to me like the greater Salt Lake City would only be above 100F for most of the summer.   Let’s move there!

Salt Lake

I’m sure the rest of the year would be climate safe … although in fairness to would-be eco-immigrants, the travel brochure should probably include this chart from the National Academy of Sciences 2010 report, Climate Stabilization Targets:  Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia:

Salt Lake wildfire

Percent increase (relative to 1950-2003) in median annual area burned for ecoprovinces of the West with a 1°C increase in global average temperature.

Yes, that is just from a 1°C warming (by mid-century).  We’re facing a lot more of thatby century’s end if we listen to the likes of Kahn (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).9

Sure there might be a few hundred percent increase in median annual burn area around Salt Lake City, but surely the burn season won’t last more than six months out of the year, eight tops, so I’m sure Salt Lake City will be climate safe a few months of the year.

UPDATE:  I see on Grist that Kahn tells Grist of another ‘winning’ city:  “I think that Seattle will compete much better in the hotter future.”  Really?  See “Impacts of sea level rise on Seattle, WA” from last December and click on figure to enlarge:

Seattle sea level rise extent aggregation

Sure, Seattle is a great city to live in now, and wouldn’t be utterly devastated by the first three feet of sea level rise.  But assuming we listen to Pollyannas like Kahn and don’t take strong action to sharply reduce emissions, then I hardly think a lot of people will be rushing to move into Seattle in the second half of this century, when everybody knows what is coming, what can’t be stopped, and what they risk under the worst-case scenario:

As you can tell, Kahn’s book is almost devoid of actual science.  The notes are stuffed with citations to newspaper pieces and articles by economists, but only a few references to actual, peer-reviewed climate science studies.

Given that over a year ago, the US Global Change Research Program published an exhaustive multi-agency analysis of Global Climate Change Impacts in United States — see Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year, and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!) — you’d think that the book would contain extensive references to it, but I couldn’t find any.

I know what you’re thinking.  Kahn must be assuming a lot of mitigation for cities like Salt Lake City and Moscow to thrive.  You think wrong!

Kahn is not a mitigation guy.  Indeed, he knows about as much about energy as he does about climate science.  He writes on page 5:

I see no credible signs global emissions will decline in the near or medium future.  Although the carbon mitigation agenda — the plan to reduce our emissions — is a worthy goal, we are unlikely to invent a magical new clean technology that allows us to live well without producing greenhouse gases.

Where is Harry Potter when you need him to solve the climate crisis?  If only there were some technologies in existence today (see “How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution“).

No, Kahn’s “vision” is “That we will save ourselves by adapting to our ever-changing circumstances.”

In short, good luck, billions of poor people post 2040.  No need to push hard for magical mitigation.  Just buck up and walk it off … all the way to Moscow and Salt Lake City!  I’m sure you will be welcomed with open arms.  Or at least arms.

64 Responses to Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future [Not!]

  1. Peter M says:

    There was a UCLA Geographer- Lawrence Smith who recently discussed how northern cities like Seattle, Vancouver, Montreal, Reykjavik, Stockholm would thrive with the coming global climate catastrophe. These cities will do well from ‘increased drilling for oil and gas’ in the ice free arctic ocean…

    They would be ‘thriving centers’ of culture and commerce…..

    well I disagree with him on this of course- you mean we are going to keep adding CC02 at increasing levels?

    Cities and nations to the south will be filled with ‘social chaos’ crime, regional conflicts over dwindling resources, famine, moral and cultural decay with economic decline caused by the increasing violence of storms, heat, drought etc.

    It makes me wonder how any part of the world will ‘immune’ from global chaos and social anomie even if they are a bit ‘cooler’.

    Sea rise would effect many of these northern cities- and what about refugees?

    Smith’s rosy predictions fail to take into account the sociological ramifications the entire world will face- unless these ‘northern locations’ have massive defense structures or walls built around them.

    As a Geographer I disagree with Smith’s view.

  2. Bob Doublin says:

    Was that Moscow, Idaho??

  3. There will be migration no doubt. But it won’t be orderly and the places they go won’t welcome them.

    A dystopian Mad Max world.

  4. James says:

    A terrific review that will save me wasting my time with this book. His howler about Moscow heatwaves shows just how quickly nature is debunking the skeptics. Have you thought about posting this review (or a condensed form of it) on Amazon to warn people away from this book?

  5. catman306 says:

    Maybe Kahn has real estate connections in Salt Lake and in Moscow? The real estate and chamber of commerce people in those two fine cities have already bought out the first printing to send to their prospects?

  6. llewelly says:

    Joe Rohm:

    On page 33, Kahn calls Salt Lake City, Utah a “climate safe city.” The southwestern city appears to be one of Kahn’s favorites. “Salt Lake City cannot flood”

    As those of us who lived in SLC during the springs of 1983, 1984, and 1985 can attest, this is gross ignorance of Salt Lake City’s climatological history.
    Yes, SLC is more likely to get drier rather than wetter, but that doesn’t mean that extreme combinations of snowfall and snowmelt timing will no longer occur. Furthermore – there is a great deal more housing and infrastructure in the areas that flooded than there was in the 1980s. (On the other hand, much larger storm drains and other flood control structures were put in, and some of them (but not the infamous lake-draining pumps) still function.)

  7. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    A Salt Lake suburb is experiencing a wildfire as we speak, caused by dry hot conditions. It’s currently burning houses. Oh wait, I just checked and it’s now contained…but there’s a wildfire SW of the city a couple of hundred miles that’s out of control and at over 30,000 acres. Interstate 70 is closed because of it. The Salt Lake Tribune says, “Wildfires pose intermittent air quality quandaries to Western communities, sometimes choking the Wasatch Front for days at a time.”

    The Wasatch Front had the worst air quality in the nation for a long stretch last January. I was there, you couldn’t even see the road signs on the freeway. I quickly left.

    And doesn’t Kahn know that Salt Lake is on the Wasatch Fault and is scheduled for a major earthquake any day? People who are aware of that might not want to relocate there.

  8. Daniel Ives says:

    Wow… After reading your quotes from this book and the points Kahn is arguing, I had only one response: an epic facepalm. Thanks for calling him out on his BS, Joe. Though the subject of this post is quite pathetic, disturbing, and sad really, it’s always refreshing to have some humor on here every now and then.

  9. caerbannog says:

    Get a clue Joe… Moscow just had its 1,000-year heat-wave. The odds of Moscow suffering through another 1,000-year heat-wave any time in the near future are extremely small!

    At least, that’s the logic that says that you are safer if you can sneak a bomb on an airline flight. I mean, what is the probability of *two* independent individuals sneaking bombs on the same airline flight? Pretty small, I would think. ;)

  10. Michael Tucker says:

    These people are not interested in a truly sustainable economy or the health and welfare of Americans or the rest of the planet. It is all some kind of joke to them; just an opportunity to sell worthless books.

    We can solve this problem and put Americans to work. We do not have to suffer drought, fire and dust bowls. We do not have to suffer months of intolerable heat every summer. We do not have to suffer 10 year flood events that now occur nearly every year. Winters will still be cold and increased precipitation can also bring an increase in the frequency of blizzards; we just can’t predict when or where. We don’t know for sure what nasty weather events we will suffer in the future but no one expected what happened in Russia and Pakistan this summer.

    I don’t see an advantage for ANYONE to ignore this problem yet many want just that. We are now in a nonsense world where reality is ignored; even the pragmatic reality of economics. Clean energy technology is HERE NOW! We do not need to continue to use 19th century technology to produce electricity. We do not need to continue to use engines and fuels that emit greenhouse gasses. Why are these people opposed to progress? Why do they hate the technologies that can solve the problem? Kahn, you may not have your head in the sand but you certainly do have it where the sun don’t shine.

  11. Mark says:

    we are ruled by people as stupid as King Canut. remember him?

    Henry of Huntingdon, the 12th-century chronicler, tells how

    King Cnut set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes; but the tide failed to stop. According to Henry, Cnut leapt backwards and said “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.

  12. Scrooge says:

    We can run a test. Let’s force everyone in New Orleans to just show up in Salt lake, no jobs no home, and see how that works out. Towns in the 30’s wouldn’t let the Okies stop. Why would it be any different now.

  13. Dano says:

    This is why we don’t call electricians to fix our plumbing.

    Nonetheless, Green Cities is good and there is some good in it. This one, maybe I won’t consume.

    And I agree with the above that “Migration: no problem” is a very stupid solution.



  14. Richard Brenne says:

    Talk about a Kahn job!

    UCLA? Really? I’m used to my alma mater having faculty more like Jared Diamond or Kerry Emanuel (before he returned to MIT). Kahn could’ve sauntered down to a world-class atmospheric science department to ask some folks there what they thought.

    As an undergrad at UCLA I took a lot of social science classes and sat in on the first day of an economics class that was taught by a famous economist who unfortunately had suffered a major stroke and I couldn’t understand a word he said and transferred to another class in another department. Now I’m thinking maybe he hadn’t suffered a stroke, he was just an economist.

    Even an environmental economist (other than Herman Daly and a handful of others) is just a blithering idiot those in any other discipline should shun. Economists are our high priests of the relentless, endless growth that is proving to be our undoing, the eugenicists and alchemists of our time.

    Great line about climate refugees not being welcomed with open arms, but arms, Joe. Moscow and Salt Lake City? I’ve spent a lot of time in both places, and I saw a savage distrust of outsiders, a bizarre and inbred ideology including the idea that guns can solve problems – and Moscow was even worse.

    Dry areas are getting drier. Moscow is surrounded by a forest the size of France, just as Salt Lake has trees in the Uintahs to the north and Wasatch to the west, coming right down to the homes that recently burned in a forest fire there. They both have continental climates, which means dry and cold in the winter (good luck when home heating fuels of all kinds run out) and dry and hot in the summer (good luck when electricity for air conditioning runs out).

    (And by the way, Moscow, Idaho is where intellectual giant Sarah Palin finally got her degree after pinballing around several mediocre institutions.)

    All in all, Kahn should be at USC.

  15. richard pauli says:

    Whoa there Mark ! #11….

    Don’t mess with King Kanut – (Danish, but one of the first kings of England) He should be the patron saint of global warming leadership.

    Kanut was making a point when he put his throne into the rising tide as a way of demonstrating to his sycophantic supplicants that even he could not command the forces of nature. The power of a king is limited. Although I am not sure Senators think it applies to them as well.

    King Kanut ruled a thousand years ago. And we still have not learned.

    With climate disruption, another destabilization will be our retreat into modern feudalism, where any powerful group and each sovereign will demand fealty. Weak political overlords feel challenged and will shoot the messenger. Smarter leaders will embrace the message.

    Sciant omnes habitantes orbem vanam & frivolam regum esse potentiam, nec regis quempiam nomine dignum praeter eum, cuius nutui coelum terra mare legibus obediunt aeternis

    “All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, and no king was struck worthy of his name, who commands with eternal obediance to principles of heaven, earth and sea”

    A thousand years is about right for a lesson.

  16. Tim says:

    I think it is a mistake to pay much attention to the details of what happens to cities as they now exist and what would happen to them if temperatures (water levels) rose as the result of global warming. Take the city of Seattle, for example. The biggest effect of a 3 ft rise in sea level occurs in the swamping of Harbor Island. Seems bad – unless you grew up in Seattle and know something of the Harbor Island’s history: the entire island was man-made to begin with! ( A denier rebuttal will go something like, ‘If early-twentieth century engineering could create the island, it won’t be difficult to save it with much less effort’. Get into this kind of stuff and you leave yourself vulnerable to denier replies that will make you look bad. Were it only the effects that global warming have on human made infrastructure, global warming and rising water (at least of few feet) might be manageable (at least in most of the US). But if 40-70% of species worldwide are driven to extinction and the glacier-fed fresh water supplies of some 1 billion people dry up – the loss of some oceanfront property will be the least of our problems. The coastal cities of Japan may tolerate a 3 ft. rise in sea levels without catastrophic effect – decimation of the oceanic food chain via destruction of habitat caused by ocean acidification will be catastrophic throughout Japan and much of the rest of world. In short, the stupidest thing about an economist telling us that we can just ‘move north’ is the completely unfounded assumption that urban dwellers are not influenced by what happens in the rest of the world.

  17. cr says:

    I’ve got both books requested from local libraries. What struck me is that the authors seem to be delusionally optimistic.

    Yes it’s nice that they acknowledge that climate change is real. But they seem to have no concept of human nature.

  18. Epic facepalm indeed!
    But he’s an economist, after all. Economists say stuff like

    “There are no … limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind any time in the foreseeable future. There isn’t a risk of an apocalypse due to global warming or anything else. The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit, is a profound error… — Larry Summers, 1991, then World Bank’s chief economist, now …ooops

    “Suppose that, as a result of using up all the world’s resources, human life did come to an end. So what? What is so desirable about an indefinite continuation of the human species, religious convictions apart?” — Wilfred Beckerman 1975

  19. llewelly says:

    Richard Brenne says:
    September 20, 2010 at 7:30 pm:

    Dry areas are getting drier. Moscow is surrounded by a forest the size of France, just as Salt Lake has trees in the Uintahs to the north and Wasatch to the west

    Geography correction: The Wasatch are east* of Salt Lake, and the Uintahs are east of the Wasatch. West of Salt Lake are the Oquirrhs.
    *The Wasatch run largely north-south, but there is a kink in the range north of downtown SLC, so from about half of SLC you can see the Wasatch both to the north and to the east.

  20. Ryan T says:

    It’d be good if someone posting on Amazon included a link to this over there. And other than the problem of how accepting cities will be of being swamped with refugees, there is the question of total food supply (including the seafood that helps sustain many cultures) vs. total demand, and the resultant pricing. You’d think any economist accustomed to looking at both the micro and the macro wouldn’t find it very easy to conclude everything will be fine without a serious mitigation effort. But it’s certainly interesting to know that “… if crops fail everywhere, entrepreneurs will have incentives to provide dried fruit instead of fresh”. I didn’t realize people could live on dried fruit.

  21. Lore says:

    Welcome to the latest denial drivel of punt and delay. Anyone who thinks there is a sacred region of the globe that will benefit from climate change is a pure out and out liar or loon! No excuses for being ignorant if you pretend to at least do the research and publish a book.

  22. John Mashey says:

    Actually, I disagree (in a weird way) about the Singer/Avery book.
    People might read it , but only if they also read Fred’s earlier book Hot Talk, Cold Science and compare.
    See what changed, what remains constant.

    That is actually an enlightening example.

  23. ozajh says:

    Richard #15,

    Just so. A point I have made myself many, many times.

    I have often wondered if any other historical figures have suffered Cnut’s fate; to be misremembered as doing the exact opposite of what you actually did.

  24. george ennis says:

    As a Canadian, I see no problem with people moving to our cooler metropolises such as Tuktoyaktuk. You will have direct access to the ocean in 2100 possibly even earlier. In fact you may that there is ocean all around you …and above you since with rising temperatures these ocean front resorts will be in danger of being submerged. But that’s just nit picking.

    In case people haven’t noticed much of southern Canada is experiencing a decadal decrease in precipitation. Environment Canada has measured it at 8% so far. So when those friendly tourists come you may find that Canada has introduced prohibition, prohibiting the sale of water to foreigners.

    If this is the adaptation plan people have in mind moving north to Canada they are clearly not only ignorant of climate change but also Canadian geography and existing water resources, the existing climate, and what our future climate will look like under climate change.

  25. Dear Joe,

    Have you read my book or merely poked around the 6 pages that Amazon offers for free from the 288 page book? Have you read any of my work on climate change?

    [JR: Actually, Amazon offers some 70 full pages of the book for free — and through the search feature you can find even more of the content. Frankly, the most illuminating part of the book are the notes, as I discuss. Your other work on climate change is not germane. I dare say one can read a much higher fraction of your book online than the fraction of relevant climate science literature you apparently have read. Have you read even a few of the relevant posts on this blog? Even this post and this one would get you to much of the key literature.]

    Please read this entry where I discuss the key points of my book. . You can access this for free.

    [JR: That essay is very revealing. It devotes not even a single sentence to urging strong and immediate action to reverse greenhouse gas emissions trends. It takes the faux Pollyanna-ish view that modern human civilization — perhaps 10 billion people by mid-century — can simply adapt to anything and that adaptation is a fully adequate strategy, so why go to all the trouble of aggressive mitigation? Your message, if listened to, would doom of billions to needless suffering. It is ultimately very pessimistic, even if you don’t know it. Anyone reading that essay would find no reason to read your book.]

    You are certainly right that if atmospheric CO2 rises to 1000 ppm then many more cities will face severe challenges. I never claim that adaptation is a perfect substitute for mitigation efforts. I argue in the introduction and conclusion that mitigation efforts will make adaptation much easier and thus I support carbon taxes now.

    [JR: You mention the word “mitigation” precisely once in the first 69 pages of the book — a line I quoted above — and then only to essentially dismiss it as requiring magic to achieve anything meaningful. You claim your essay discusses the “key points” of the book, but it never mentions mitigation or a carbon tax. So I think readers here have gotten the key message.]

    You could learn a lot from economists and we can learn from you. Forward looking people armed with the information that your website provides will be more inclined to support carbon mitigation policies.

    [JR: I did my concentration in economics and have read much of the climate economics literature. You mention Weitzman, but I am not certain you have read or at least understood him. And, as I’ve discussed with him, his own work underestimates the probability of fat tail disasters. Mitigation is simply far more crucial — and far cheaper and more urgent — than you seem to realize.]

    But, we both know that climate change will unfold. I believe that we will do the best we can to cope in our hotter future. I do not believe that we are doomed. Perhaps you and I should make a bet like Simon and Ehrlich? Name your terms my friend.

    Best, Matt Kahn

    [JR: As my readers know, I also do not believe we are doomed — but only if we don’t listen to folks like you and instead employ aggressive mitigation starting now or very soon.

    The only Simon-Ehrlich type bet I’d be willing to make is over oil. I’d be happy to bet that the average price of oil this decade — 2010 to 2019 — will double the average price of the previous 60 years (in inflation-adjusted terms). It wouldn’t prove anything about why you are wrong and I am right about climate change, though.

    Unfortunately, the only truly meaningful bet to resolve our differences isn’t a Simon-Ehrlich one and it won’t be resolved until past mid century, namely that if we listen to folks like you and basically convince the public that they can muddle through what is to come with little serious mitigation, then carbon dioxide concentrations will exceed 750 ppm by century’s end and people will curse our names for a long, long time.]

  26. homunq says:

    Much as I’d love to see Joe take Matt’s money, I already have the most precious thing in the world to me – my daughters’ life – bet on the unlikely good-side outcome. I wouldn’t blame Joe if he declined to make a ghoulish bet on misery and death, even if he’s likely to win.

    Kahn: did you predict the financial crisis? Given the tone of your book, I doubt it. And if not, you’re not the kind of economist I need to learn from, thanks. Just because some economists are smarter than me, doesn’t mean listening to you won’t make me stupider.

  27. DSL says:

    Matt, surely by now you know how the denial-o-sphere works. If you’re concerned about people on this site not reading the book but still using it to support an agenda, see what happens with the WUWT crowd. How much traction will the “it won’t be so bad (and therefore I bear no responsibility)” response get from your book? I can only hope you have some integrity and weren’t trying to tap into the extremely ripe U.S. anti-AGW market without considering the ultimate consequences.

    And you might not be doomed: you’ll have your university salary and the proceeds from the book. You seem to be looking up from a great height. Most of the rest of the world is stuck within a network of private property, rent, and payday-to-payday existence. Mitigation is only profitable for humanity as a whole, not for most entities in a capitalist economy. Government can do it, but you see which way the wind is blowing. The U.S. is bent on putting people in office who would rather see the government minimized or shut down. In China, while the per capita footprint is low, the economy is steadily ramping up the energy use. And we still can’t rule out future energy wars.

    I agree: one day we’ll learn to live in the house we’ve built for our children, but getting there is probably not going to be pretty (except for those who have the wealth to dodge it).

  28. hapa says:

    DOESN’T: respond to the substance of the critique, the cases.
    DOES: bring up julian simon.

    debate victory!

  29. John Mason says:

    Matt (#25),

    Having followed your link and read that, one problem I have identified is that you are erroneously taking climate change as an issue in isolation.

    In fact it is one of several converging problems of varying potential for societal destabilisation if unmitigated. Of the others, one stands at the fore. How will mass migrations be possible, practically (how will they move, how will they be fed?) and societally (as Joe says, will it be open arms – or just arms?), in a situation where food shortages due to climate-related crop failure are exacerbated by food and transport infrastructure problems as a consequence of being on the downward part of the Hubbert Curve with respect to regular crude?

    Cheers – John

  30. Richard Brenne says:

    Matthew E. Kahn (#25) –

    I second the comments by John Mason above (#26), that we face multiple problems that are each unprecedented.

    In your essay synopsis of your book you chirp about Brad Pitt’s project with your UCLA colleague to build floating cities in New Orleans. Okay, but a city needs infrastructure to support any individual home. New Orleans is subsiding naturally, pumping water, oil and natural gas locally and regionally is furthering its subsidence, the levees on the Mississippi don’t allow silt to regenerate the bayous, thousands of miles of canals for shipping and building and maintaining oil and natural gas wells and pipelines have created more open water, as has the nutria imported from South America, that can eat 25,000 acres of bayou marshland a year. The BP oil spill will also kill vegetation – all this plus a likely meter (and possible two meter) sea level rise in the next century makes New Orleans an untenable place to inhabit during that time, because the bayous are the speed bumps to hurricane storm surge.

    It is quite likely that in a century New Orleans is in the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps with a sea wall surrounding only the French Quarter as a Disney-like tourist attraction, if the Pirates of the Caribbean remain cute and mythical instead of real and thus less cute.

    The same with the entire Gulf Coast, some of the West Coast and much of the East Coast. Katrina alone shook the nation substantially – what would dozens of Katrinas (from hurricanes, floods, droughts, crop failures, etc) look like in a decade?

    I produce and moderate panels with experts on climate change, energy, population and related issues with panelists like Bill McKibben, Kevin Trenberth, James Howard Kunstler and many others. One of the panels was “The Future of Food”, with experts on what climate change will mean to global food security due to drought, heat waves, changing precipitation patterns, flooding of fertile deltas due to sea level rise, intensified hurricanes and flooding from other sources, loss of glacial melt water, drying of rivers during late summer and fall, etc, etc, etc.

    Then Kunstler, Al Bartlett and others have talked about what Peak Oil and Peak Natural gas will mean to agriculture.

    Then aquifer depletion and water infrastructure experts have expressed their concerns.

    Then Peak Phosphorous, loss of topsoil, the loss of honeybees and other pollinators are all concerns, as is Gail Zawacki’s ground-breaking concern that global ozone levels from cumulative pollution of all kinds is beginning to cripple all plants, including crops, globally.

    Each of these experts is terribly concerned with how we’re going to feed 7 billion people, let alone the 9 billion the UN projects we’ll have by 2050 (indeed, an estimated billion are malnourished now). But going into my panels, many of them were only concerned with just their one area of expertise. When you add (or is it multiply) all the affects together it is understandably overwhelming to most people, so it takes these very special, honest intellects to be able to process this. When they do, as someone like Joe Romm and his many expert readers and commenters have done, they feel it’s long past time to get to work building a new future, because the old paradigms including the worship of growth and free markets alone is merely dinosaur thinking. You and your colleagues are capable of much more.

  31. Tony Sidaway says:

    For some reason the talk of New Yorkers in Fargo puts me in mine of the film scene in which Frances McDormand finds Peter Stormare feeding the remains of Steve Buscemi into a wood chipper.

  32. Sime says:

    What shelf does this sit on science, fiction, or science fiction or the new shelf “The Best of BS” from what you have said Joe Trevor Hoyle’s The Last Gasp is a way better read and would probably give the reader far more accurate information and it is actually fiction.

    What’s going on in the US at the moment, has someone put stupid pills in the water supply? you couldn’t make this up… er actually, you could and er it looks rather like the author did.

    So what’s next?

    How about announcing that the planet is really only 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs and humans once lived together in harmony, the moon landings really were a hoax, the face on mars is real and is an alien bunker, magic is in fact real it just ran out and is now back in stock at Walmart. Oh and as a piece de resistance Fox could announce that republican politicians are all actually witches and wizards with Christine O’Donnell as the grand twat!


  33. NeilT says:


    I see this approach a lot and I also see that climate scientists stance at odds with people who “seem” to propose simple or oversimplified solutions to very serious and life threatening problems.

    It’s not that the climate scientists are being awkward or bloody minded, they just have far more information than the rest of us and they don’t take kindly to amateurs stepping in and suggesting things which will, in the short term, tend to inaction.

    Yes, climate change is here and we can’t aviod it. You are right, but the scientists are not saying it isn’t. They are saying that unless we do Every Single Thing in our power Right The Hell NOW, the worst effects of climate change will come to pass and humanity, as a species, will be hard put to survive it. Therefore anyone who seems to produce a solution, in the near term, which will allow inaction NOW, is someone who has to be stopped and put right.

    Because, as you well know as an economist, people tend to try and ignore bad things and leave them for someone else to fix.

    Let me try and give you an example of the exasperation that economists cause when they make these statements. In Britain we have the so called “Inequality Land Divide”. England/Wales have 90% of the population and Scotland has 33% of the land. So from time to time some “smart” English economist pops up making noise about the “unused Scottish landmass”.

    Scots, being intimately accuainted with their own country are somewhat bemused and, at times, annoyed by this myopic view of the land. For example the words Rannoch Moor, to the English, cunjor up views of the Yorkshire Moors and Derbyshire dales; grass and rolling landscape.

    More rightly the Moor could be called “Rannoch Bog covered in Heather and Gorse”. As much of low lying Scotland is. Not fit for living off, can’t graze animals on it, can’t cultivate it and there is no way that some English Prat is going to tear it all up to make a shopping mall and car park.

    So to get back to the point. When you talk about climate mobility and just moving to new areas, you really annoy people who know what they are talking about. Take Bangladesh for instance. Bangladesh fought a vicious civil war with Pakistan to have their independence. 70% of Bangladesh will be under water with a 3′ sea level rise. So 2100 (absolute best case scenario and it’s not happening) and most of Bangladeshis will have to move somewhere else. You think that the Pakistanis will have them? Maybe they’ll move to Seattle????? I think not.

    However it’s not just a 3′ sea level rise which is the issue. 6″ of sea level rise and the deltal will be inundated with every storm.

    Just exactly where are all these people going to go? Are we going to see more wars? Are hundreds of millions of people going to be fighting for more land, less resources. The Delta of Bangladesh feeds the Bangladeshi’s, where will their food come from if they have to uproot and move? When do the Pakistani and Indian nuclear weapons come into play?

    Capital cities such as Stochholm and Copenhagen are island or sea shore cities. Likely to suffer in the event of sea level rise.

    In the summer of 2005 in Sweden there was so much rain that Swedes were fighting in the travel agencies for the last holidays to the sun. In 2006 the summer was opressive, 36C temperatures (a record) and houses designed to withstand -20C became torture chambers.

    Whilst the book might be well meaning and, to a point, have a realistic viewpoint behind it. It is neither correct, helpful or in good taste given the challenges humanity have to face in the lifetimes of our children.

    We educate our chilren and fight to give them a future. Then we take it away with inaction.

    How human!!!

  34. Turboblocke says:

    The unasked question about migration is the timing. Just when do you decide to abandon your home and seek pastures new? The first time it floods or storms or has a heatwave? Or do you wait a while hoping that it was a one-off. When it finally does become obvious that you have to move, you won’t be the only one, so can you get a good price for your property?

    With farmers it’s even worse: how many crop failures before they decide to move? They’re not going to move to established farmland. They’re going to have to leapfrog the still viable areas and open up new territory. Will they be welcome there? Who’s going to pay for the roads, towns and other infrastructure? Who’s going to be feeding us while they get established?

  35. _Flin_ says:

    “you will be welcomed with open arms. Or at least arms”

    What a gem.

  36. caerbannog says:

    USA wingnut on immigration:
    “We have to secure our borders — keep all those illegal immigrants out!
    Immediately deport the ones already here! No amnesty!!!
    Build a fortified border-wall between us and Mexico. Use land mines if necessary. We have to take our country back!”

    USA wingnut on global-warming:
    “Don’t limit emissions — have everybody move north instead!”

  37. David says:

    The bottom line is there is just no escaping global warming. Even assuming we could just move north, what about the plants and animals? Particularly those that are indigenous to the far north — where will they move?

  38. Mark says:

    richard pauli says:
    September 20, 2010 at 7:45 pm
    Whoa there Mark ! #11…

    as usual, I learn something everytime I come here.


  39. Colorado Bob says:

    There’s another possible scenario about what “adapting” will look like :

    The unearthed bones and artifacts indicate that when the violence took place, men, women and children were tortured, disemboweled, killed and often hacked to bits. In some cases, heads, hands and feet appear to have been removed as trophies for the killers. The attackers then removed belongings out of the structures and set the roofs on fire.

    “I think that the major event was preceded by social stress within the community that may have been exacerbated by a period of drought,” Chuipka said.

  40. Colorado Bob says:

    Radar est. of precipitation from last Wed. through this morning . Brownsville , Texas radar site.

  41. john atcheson says:

    Years ago, I heard the mayor of London speaking on climate change (unfortunately I forget his name). When he concluded, a questioner said something to the effect that in the Pleistocene, London had experienced ice ages and such and that we simply adapted. The mayor smiled and said, “It’s certainly much easier to move a few yak-skin yurts than it is to move a metropolis of more than 10 million with several trillion in sunk infrastructure costs.” or words to that effect.

    Don’t these adaptation fans understand the costs and complexity of adaptation? Don’t they know that much of that cost won’t be measured in dollars or pounds, but human misery, death, pestilence and poverty?

  42. Chris Winter says:

    There’s only one customer review of the book on Amazon so far. It gives the book one star and quotes extensively from Joe’s post.

    Of course, the other side will show up in force quite soon, I’m sure.

  43. Chris Winter says:

    I wonder if anyone else had the reaction I did to the cover image of Climatopolis. It made me think of that scene in Independence Day just before the huge alien spaceship appears from behind the clouds to hover over Los Angeles.

    A foreboding of mysterious changes: possibly dangerous, but welcomed by some. I’m just sayin’…

  44. PurpleOzone says:

    Fred Singer’s Unstoppable Book had a key prediction: The Arctic Ice Cap won’t melt further. At the time the book was written, 10%-20% of the Arctic was open sea at peak.

    Now it’s 50%. I don’t have the page number for Singer’s unqualified prediction (maybe 70) since I only browsed the book in a store.

    If anybody could stand to read the thing, I’m sure they could find a lot more howlers. Singer’s style of quoting several references, then following with a “therefore” which doesn’t follow, is painful to plow through.

  45. Michael Tucker says:

    Water will be the first resource to present a problem. There are people who have been studying water use, climate change, and population growth for many years now. Climate change is expected to lead to droughts in both the southwest and southeast US. This coupled with population growth (and economic growth) will lead to shortages. A few years ago Georgia, Alabama, and Florida got into a tussle over water. At the time the drought was so bad that several power plants were weeks away from shutting down. Georgia was so alarmed that a state legislator suggested a resurvey of the Georgia / Tennessee border hoping to get access to water a mile into Tennessee. I know of no other resource that could cause a fight to redraw borders established 200 years ago. Water can do that! It is our most valuable and least valued resource. Cheaper than dirt but people go to war over it! In the southwest Hoover dam may not be able to continue to generate electricity past 2021 but some are now saying that current trends indicate it may be as soon as 2013.

    The droughts are expected to begin to be severe enough to cause disruptions by around 2025. India and China are also expected to suffer water shortages too. India can barely supply water to its largest cities NOW! By 2025 they will be experiencing severe shortages due to drought and massive demand from an ever increasing population. India is expected to be the worlds most populace country by 2030.

    Utilities, agriculture, industry, and cities will compete for water. Climate disruption increases uncertainties in precipitation. These competing interests cannot depend on aquifers as we are already drawing them down at record rates; they will not last. Utilities usually depend on lakes or rivers and when the level is too low power will cease.

    To ignore mitigation strategies, to suggest that we do not have clean technologies NOW, to say that magic is required, is dishonest and morally reprehensible. We, the technologically advanced countries who produce the most GHG emissions, must begin to make a change. We owe it to the rest of the world and we owe it to posterity.

    Transportation fuel will cause problems as well but we do have other options for fuel; no alternatives are available for water.

  46. Lou Grinzo says:

    Richard Brenne says:

    “As an undergrad at UCLA I took a lot of social science classes and sat in on the first day of an economics class that was taught by a famous economist who unfortunately had suffered a major stroke and I couldn’t understand a word he said and transferred to another class in another department. Now I’m thinking maybe he hadn’t suffered a stroke, he was just an economist.

    Even an environmental economist (other than Herman Daly and a handful of others) is just a blithering idiot those in any other discipline should shun. Economists are our high priests of the relentless, endless growth that is proving to be our undoing, the eugenicists and alchemists of our time.”

    Seriously??? You’re going to paint that indiscriminately and with that broad a brush? And you’re not even going to ask yourself, “Hmm, I wonder if any of the people on the right side of this issue just might be economists”? (Hint: I’m an economist.)

  47. Mark says:

    According to the supporters of the genetic bottleneck theory, between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, human population suffered a severe population decrease—only 3,000 to 10,000 individuals survived—

    Several geneticists, have proposed that the human race was reduced to approximately five to ten thousand people.
    Genetic evidence suggests that all humans alive today, despite apparent variety, are descended from a very small population, perhaps between 1,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs about 70,000 years ago.

    it was proposed in the late 1990s that this bottleneck could have been caused by the climate effects of the Toba eruption which resulted in a global ecological disaster with extreme phenomena, such as worldwide vegetation destruction, and severe drought in the tropical rainforest belt and in monsoonal regions.

  48. Dear Joe,

    I 100% support your efforts to mitigate carbon. You are clearly worried about the lulling hypothesis; that the expectation of ex-post “insurance” discourages ex-ante costly action. I discuss this at length in the conclusion of the book.

    But, we have failed to pass the carbon tax and I don’t believe we will. I support AB32 but it could be rolled back by Prop 23.

    Despite your efforts, and the efforts of many other “good people”, the international free rider problem lives on. Nobody has a unilateral incentive to reduce their carbon emissions. This is the starting premise for Climatopolis. We have already released too much gas and we are unwilling to take our medicine and face the carbon tax.

    So, what happens next? You predict doom. There is a middle, more gradual path for how we escape this challenge. You under-estimate our individual and collective ability to surmount a challenge. Please write a balanced post on how you foresee adaptation playing out for both urbanites and farmers.

    best, matt

    [JR: I have already written my big adaptation post, which I linked to early on in this post as my prebuttal to your book. I am not the one predicting doom — it’s the recent scientific literature that says what we likely face and I report on that to those who haven’t gone to the trouble of reading it for themselves. Actually, lots of countries have incentives to reduce their carbon emissions by themselves — and many will. But with folks like you basically ignoring the science and therefore misleading the public on what happens if we don’t take serious mitigation action, then of course the chances of the necessary collective action diminish.

    As I have tried to make clear, in the “do nothing” or “do little” case, adaptation is not the dominant response, at least in a world stripped of euphemism. The dominant response is suffering and misery. I have great confidence in the collective power of the human race to do everything it can to minimize that after the fact, but, in the case of global warming, the best word to use is not adaptation but triage.]

  49. caerbannog says:

    FYI, the LA Times has put up a transcript of a Q&A session with Matthew Kahn — it’s at,0,7445913.story

    There are some real howlers there — here are a couple:

    Q) Global warming might make other cities more appealing. You mention that Detroit might actually thrive. Will people move out of L.A.?

    A) Every city is different. How they will deal with climate change will be different. If a city like L.A. started to go to hell, a mayor would have an incentive to try to make this a green city again. Cities compete against each other for highly skilled workers. If people continually moved out of Los Angeles, a mayor would have a major headache because he’d lose his tax base.

    Q) “Climate change will strip away much of California’s climate uniqueness.” Can you discuss?

    A) A beautiful part of California is how temperate our summers are, and how mild our winters. From what I’ve seen in climate change models, a 75-degree average in August in Los Angeles will become an 88-degree average in August 2070. There will, however, be large variations (cooler by the beach, and much hotter near Palm Springs).

    But it’s different strokes for different folks. Palm Springs-lovers will love Pasadena as Pasadena gets hotter. Others, who prefer cooler temperatures, might prefer a Santa Monica high-rise. People who are bugged by heat will have to live by the coast.

    For those who wish to respond to this nonsense, the comments section is still open.

  50. Dear Joe,

    The bet. We could bet on future deaths from natural disasters. You appear to believe that the death count will be heading into the multi-millions while I think they will decline due to migration and innovation.

    Can you name a specific bet that would allow us to pursue this?

    best, matt

    [JR: Matt, you appear not to actually have read what I have written. Where do I suggest that I “believe that the death count will be heading into the multi-millions”? I have written several books and a few million words on the subject, so it is always possible to find something to serve as the foundation for misrepresenting what I believe. But I don’t believe I’ve ever suggested the death count from “natural” disasters will be in the multi-millions.

    The number of people who will suffer needlessly from multiple preventable catastrophic impacts post-2040 is certainly in the billions, but humanity has such a vast wealth that under most scenarios (though not the plausible worst-case scenarios) we have more than enough to ensure the basic necessities in response to disasters — at least until they come so fast and furious that people won’t really call them disasters, they’ll just be the natural climate. At some point one simply stops using the term “drought” and you recognize that the subtropics have expanded permanently and you live in the dust bowl.

    If there are mass deaths sometime post-2040, though, I wouldn’t expect that they would come from natural disasters, but rather from having surpassed the carrying capacity of the planet. It is certainly going to get difficult to feed 10 billion people when we have turned a third of the habited land mass into a near permanent dust bowl, flooded a large fraction of arable land near the coasts, melted many of the key inland glaciers that provide water to tens of millions of people, and rendered much of the ocean into hot, acidified dead zones. Still, we are a wealthy species, and once we are driven to reorganize to focus on desperate mitigation, forced adaptation, and providing the bare necessities, it’s hard to predict how many people will die at least in a directly attributable sense.

    Again, the problem in constructing the bet is that a plausible payoff date is simply too far away. Nor would I ever dream of betting on “death count.” I would have thought that would be far too morbid, even for an economist. But there is the old joke that mathematics has given economics rigor, but, alas, also mortis.]

  51. Joe, you speak, people listen!

  52. Richard Brenne says:

    Lou Grinzo (#46) – You’re right, I painted with too broad a brush. In addition to Herman Daly and Eban Goodstein, you’re definitely on the good-guy economist list. I’ve been super-impressed by all your comments.

    Now pull back a minute and ask yourself, has economics in the U.S. as a whole preached growth? Almost exclusively. Free-market capitalism? Almost exclusively. Has it helped lead us to where we are? I’d say it’s been the main academic discipline doing so.

    It’s kind of like the German army during WWII had a few super-courageous, principled people who tried to kill Hitler. But they had little impact compared to the rest of the Nazis.

    So while I was incorrect to paint a brush that would include Daly, you and Goodstein, who each impress me tremendously (and I’d love to know the names of others), you’ve been like the heroic Germans but the main thrust of especially U.S. economics has been in much the wrong direction.

  53. Lou Grinzo says:

    Joe says:

    “Again, the problem in constructing the bet is that a plausible payoff date is simply too far away. Nor would I ever dream of betting on “death count.” I would have thought that would be far too morbid, even for an economist. But there is the old joke that mathematics has given economics rigor, but, alas, also mortis.”

    Joe, this is very disappointing, to say the least, but there’s clearly no point in fighting it. I f***ing give up trying to make the point about how utterly ridiculous and just plain incorrect it is to blast everyone with a degree in a particular subject. It’s like trying to convince the WUWT crowd that the hockey stick is sound science, or smash a boulder with glass hammers.

    I will now go into read-only mode on this site for a few days.

    If you want to say anything to me about this economist bashing, please e-mail me directly. There’s clearly no point in clogging up the comment section any further.

    [JR: Sadly for you, the loudest economists on this subject are the most egregious. But if you can’t take a joke….

    Seriously, I post the work of a lot of good economists here, like Stavins. But the bet offered me was simply too over-the-top not to make some sort of quip about. It’s an old joke, one I heard over 30 years ago at M.I.T.]

  54. NeilT says:

    Michael #45, so you’re saying that the idea I had for a water based, closed loop, non steam, power delivery for geothermal power is a real possibility in a drought ridden world for any kind of power generation?

    Certainly I came up with the idea for generating power in any conditions including desert. However I have no hope of getting anyone to listen to it if responses to other ideas I’ve had are anything to go by………

  55. NeilT says:

    I’ve always found the idea of a carbon tax as a negative non starter.

    I find incentives are much better. I’m not talking about giving out grants for green energy research. I’m talking a 10 year 100% tax amnesty on all green energy prodcution from all segments. With taxation climbing in direct relation to the carbon cost of producing/distributing/consuming the green energy.

    Hence an electric car connected to a solar charging station will only incur taxation for the production of the vehicle and the production/delivery of any spares required (tyres etc).

    Do that and you’ll find companies falling over themselves to get into the game.

    Forget trying to find funds to get people to do things. Just don’t penalise them when they do.

    Picking the right carrot is all.

  56. Wit'sEnd says:

    “..mathematics has given economics rigor, but, alas, also mortis.”

    Now, that’s funny!!

    Lou, I took Richard’s initial comment to include you and others in the “handful” as exempt from his criticism of the endless growth paradigm.

    Please don’t pick up your toys and go home! Us Romm’n’Legions would be bereft…

    And Dr. Kahn?

    I’ll take that bet with you. I’ll bet that within a year, the empirical – (not models!!) – evidence will convince everyone that we have poisoned our atmosphere with so many toxic greenhouse gas emissions from burning fuel that widespread panic about crop failures – never mind overall ecosystem collapse, both on land and in the sea – has overwhelmed every other consideration, politically and socially.

    In other words, the SHTF. TEOTWAWKI.

  57. hapa says:

    forgive this… and hope no format problems… probably good to bring in professor kahn’s two blog posts about this.

    much here:
    (for the record, there was already a round 2, about timber, and simon conceded loss a year early.)

    a little more here:

    ok first i want to i say for the third time in three places that matthew kahn is sloppy and just obviously has something he thinks more important on his mind than assessing over climate risks. he doesn’t know about climate feedbacks, he doesn’t seem to care about the impact of price spikes on groups or on contracts, and everything he learned about environmentalism he learned from reading malthus, who i guess is a frequent guest effigy at the university of chicago, before the burning.

    it’s pretty funny when the US military says it doesn’t think it can keep up w/ a less-than-worst-case scenario, climatopolis puts its faith in real estate markets — which are currently hospitalized from dealing w/ a much smaller problem.

    so what does professor kahn have on his mind? here is a clue.

    I am a 100% supporter of carbon incentives.

    he’s repeated this everywhere, in many forms. i think prof kahn is engaging in a lie of omission: there may be only one kind of ‘unintended consequences’ that keep him up at night. i think this is a good time for mr “minor league milton friedman” to disclose his personal or professional opposition to government-led mitigation efforts, on the grounds that the government would be doing them.

    milton friedman insisted to the end of his days that while ecological concerns were a case for government intervention, global warming wasn’t that scale of a problem. is that prof kahn’s (much humbler) finding, or is it his foregone conclusion?

  58. ration_cc says:

    JR (and his [snip] followers) are over-reacting to MK rational claim about cities and climate change. Undeniably, anthropogenic GHG emissions are altering the natural atmospheric formula, causing global climatic changes affecting millennia developed ecosystems. There will be winners and losers in this new environment – and Kahn is attempting to point out which have advantages, and what cities/businesses can do to adapted to this new world. For a Southern Californian example, it’s logical to predict that climate change will create obnoxiously hot inland valleys, and dwellers from that region will want to move to the ocean-breeze comfortable Los Angeles basin. As capitalists see this consumer preference shift, they’ll create businesses and industries that fill that demand. Don’t be surprised to see a higher density LA in 20 years and a lower density Riverside (I can wager something on that).

    Sure, some things you can’t just pick and move – like an oil refinery, an agricultural field or a public transit system – and these things will either have to find an adaptive competitive edge or get compromised in the free market. To think that water or severe heat will completely alter our lifestyle – think again (Las Vegas, Dubai); humans are capable of building desalinization plants, and like the Romans, miles and miles of aqueducts.

    I actually think that MK is supporting this fatalist blog – by proving that there will be winners and losers, and future adaptive capital costs (for weatherization, water, sanitation, built infrastructure/industry)… cities and industries have an incentive today to protect their golden goose. Why else would LA develop its CleanTech Corridor, NYC’s PlaNYC program, or Venice’s seawall?

    Economists and environmentalists can agree that the fastest way to stop the drastic effects of climate change is to put a global price on GHG emitting sources – that will incentivize the development of non-GHG technologies and industries, and greatly help to clean the environment. Sure, it will make things more expensive in the short-term – but human ingenuity and trial/error will bring the cost down. (Remember when a personal desktop computer costed $3000 in 1995?) And of course, reversing climate change today could be less costly then adapting tomorrow.

    For now, capitalists are being rational about investment opportunities on this warming and resource constraint planet. For instance, the 2008 oil price spike led to major investments in EV and fuel efficient cars (hence their commercializing today in 2010/2011). Similarly, the Northwest Passage (which is more energy efficient – over 70% less fuel usage) is being pursued for commercial operations. With more evident climatic variation, the free market will continue to adapt to the new environment (of costs and demands). But until GHG resources get more expensive (due to scarcity or imposed tax) or the price of alternative get competitive, the scale of capital investment in clean technology as we all want to see won’t happen soon enough to stop climate change – so cities, as MK points out, will have to adapt.

    [JR: This blog isn’t fatalist. The book appears to be, unintentionally.]

  59. adelady says:

    Great idea about moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Not!

    On the other side of the world at the same latitude we have Adelaide. 270 miles south of Adelaide lands us where? In the Southern Ocean.

    I suppose all the inhabitants of Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth could cram themselves into Hobart and Dunedin, but it wouldn’t be very comfy.

  60. Re #4, #20, #42 Yes I took your suggestion James #4 and put a few pars from Joe’s post on Amazon. One bite so far, to which I responded using the convenient Amazon button “Do you think this post adds to the discussion?” :-)

  61. Chris Winter says:

    I wonder how much research Matthew Kahn did for his new volume. Did he read Peter Ward’s Under a Green Sky or The Flooded Earth? How about Forecast by Stephan Faris? The first two make plausible projections of human responses to global climate change under worst-case emissions. The last shows us some contemporary effects of global climate change, in regions as far apart and as different as Key West, Florida and the Sudan.

    I haven’t read Climatopolis yet, but Kahn seems to consider each city as a separate case. What part of “global” does he fail to understand? (If I’m not understanding his work, I trust he’ll correct me.)

    Reasonable projections show a world of growing human population and shrinking resources to support it. In the past, this has been the recipe for violent confrontation. Why should it be different in the future?

  62. Chris Winter says:

    And speaking of optimistic books, I just saw Joel Kotkin’s The Next Hundred Million. This imagines the United States in 2050, with a population of 400 million.

    Again, I haven’t read the book, only the blurb on the dust jacket. But based on that, Kotkin sees a population more spread out, but still clustered into metropolitan regions. These are doing all right, including those in the Southwest, and the Midwest is thriving.

  63. Richard Brenne says:

    Lou Grinzo (#53) – You’re right again that it is wrong to bash everyone with a certain degree, and some of my best friends have economics degrees.

    Although I don’t have a science background myself, many of my best friends are world-class physicists, because I admire the precision in their thinking that background has provided. They seem sincerely interested in the truth of any situation, and will adjust their views to whatever the evidence shows.

    Many social scientists, in contrast, appear to have an ideology that they’re trying to prove, and seem more interested in winning an argument than going where the truth leads.

    Lou, you’ve impressed me greatly with your deep understanding of climate science, your precision and expertise in communicating it, and your overall wisdom and perspective.

    As with anything, I don’t think there are any bad people, but I do think that there are less informed ways of thinking that do harm, and that need to be corrected.

    Milton Friedman economics seems to me a prime example of this, and Kahn’s books seems to me a prime example of Friedman economics, that when one location or resource develops problems or lack, another can always be substituted.

    What we’ve run into is global limits to growth. We are running out of resources like fresh water from aquifers and glaciers and that destroyed by salinity, infrastructure to deliver fresh water to all, oil and soon natural gas, and many if not most minerals, as well as drawing down the capital of virtually all renewable resources including fish, trees, topsoil, etc.

    The Friedman School of Economics seems to say that we can never run out of anything, because human ingenuity (fueled by greed, which is fueled by ego) and technology will solve every problem.

    For every problem technology solves, it creates more problems.

    Thinking that technology alone will solve the problems that technology created is like drinking to forget that you’re a drunk. The same for growth and the free market alone (although each has an important role).

    This dogmatic thinking is the main force behind U.S. economics. You’re absolutely right that it is not the fault of everyone with that degree; the fault lies with dogmatic thinking of all kinds, including that of conventional Friedmanesque economics.

    But I will say that any school of economics that does not see the economy as a wholly owned subsidiary of nature and that does not insist on living on the interest of renewable resources rather than drawing down their capital (as we’ve been doing) is intellectually, morally and spiritually bankrupt.

    So Lou, I apologize for personal slights. I find this comment section the perfect place to experiment with various tones. Too timid and bland and boring is not good. Occasional hyperbole, exaggeration and attack with the kind of collateral damage you describe are also not good, so I apologize for any unintended insults.

    There is also a place for humor that might scrape a few knees from time to time, so what is a busload of economists plunging off a cliff into the ocean? I kid!:)

  64. Eyal Morag says:

    And the suitable cities (or habitable) will invent addition to NIMBY NIMC Not In My City for all the southerners. (nimic means nothing in Romanian)