Review: Climatopolis: How our cities will thrive in the hotter future by Matthew Kahn is not a good book

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"Review: Climatopolis: How our cities will thrive in the hotter future by Matthew Kahn is not a good book"

Memo to economists: Please read the scientific literature before opining on the impacts of global warming.

Climatopolis by Matthew Kahn has a deeply flawed main thesis, captured in its subtitle, “How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future.”  On page after page you will find assertions that are dubious, unsubstantiated, or just plain wrong.  Also, the book does not appear to have been well edited.  Indeed, it contains at least one (repeated) glaring quantitative error that is so egregious it is very puzzling how it could have persisted to the final version.

But most importantly, the author just doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he hasn’t done his homework.  It bugs me that so many economists — a discipline notorious for leaping all over non-economists who write on economic matters without doing their homework — write so much about climate change without reading the extensive climate science literature or talking to leading climate scientists.

Readers know I already debunked the book’s central thesis (see “How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future [Not!].  So why am I doing another piece?

Well, the author sent me an email titled “Brad Delong’s question for you” with a link to a post by Berkeley economist Brad DeLong who apparently thinks that you can’t debunk a key thesis of a book unless you read every single word of it.  He’s wrong about that — DeLong and I both did just fine eviscerating the nonsensical global-cooling/geo-engineering chapter in Superfreakonomics.  In any case, a very large fraction of Climatopolis is online and I read that, searched other parts, read writings that Kahn pointed me to, and saw how the notes were almost completely devoid of actual references to climate science.

I do have respect for DeLong as an economist, but he simply asserts the book is “very good” without defending that assertion at all or responding to my extensive debunking of it.  Fundamentally, Climatopolis will appeal mainly to those who haven’t seriously read the climate science literature or talked to leading climate scientists.  That would appear to include DeLong, who, while he has a better understanding of the climate than many economists, still managed to write this sentence earlier this year, “Unless the North Atlantic Conveyor shuts down and Europe returns to the climate of the Younger Dryas Era, global warming is not a huge deal for the North Atlantic economies for a century.”  Not — see, for instance, “U.S. southwest could see a 60-year drought like that of 12th century “” only hotter “” this century” and links to the literature below.

I suppose I’ll have to do a separate post on this, but global warming will almost certainly become the hugest imaginable deal for the North Atlantic economies within a quarter century.  Indeed, the way it’s looking now, by the 2030s, if not sooner, all of the major economies of the world will be focusing all of their economic policy desperately on adaptation and mitigation.  But I digress.


Climatopolis is just not a good book.  It’s not even a so-so book.  That’s clearer now that I’ve read the whole thing.  To start, the author just doesn’t know what he’s talking about .  You don’t have to take my word for it.  You can read this detailed review, “A Fantasy Future,” at the American Scientist by David Satterthwaite, a leading expert on the impact of climate change on cities (he co-edited the book Adapting Cities to Climate Change), who concludes:

Unfortunately, it fails on the most important criterion: a good knowledge of the topic under discussion. There is little evidence that author Matthew E. Kahn, an economist, has familiarized himself with the literature on climate change and cities. For instance, there are only a few references to papers from the leading climate and urban journals, and no mention is made of any of the assessments of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Yet in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, which was published in 2007, one finds a version of Kahn’s main thesis that is more accurate and more nuanced than the one set forth in the book. The report indicates that many cities have a capacity to adapt to climate change, just as in the past they have adapted to environmental conditions and to frequent changes in resource prices and availabilities. The book goes further. Its subtitle, How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future, suggests that cities will not merely adapt, but flourish; however, a subtitle that better reflects the content would be How Some Cities in a Few Prosperous, Large Nations May Benefit from Global Warming in the Next Few Decades.

In 14 pages of notes, there are two or three actual references to peer-reviewed climate science papers, one of which is, “Impact of a Century of Climate Change on Small-Mammal Communities in Yosemite National Park, USA,” which isn’t exactly on anyone’s list of top 500 papers you should read if you want to understand what will happen to cities and humanity because of human-caused global warming.  The page of “suggested further reading” contained not a single peer-reviewed climate science paper.

For the record, if economists want to engage in this debate, if they want to make sweeping statements about what we face, if they want to insist that people have to read every single word they write, then are about three dozen articles they should start with:

And before Kahn complains that most of those papers were published while his book was being printed, here’s a bunch of earlier ones that spell out what we face:

Economists who fail to read the literature will likely end up putting stuff out like Climatopolis:


Ironically, while I have been urged to read this  book closely to review it fully, apparently I have ended up reading this book more closely than any of the editors or perhaps the author himself.  On pages 211-212, Kahn writes:

A carbon permit price of $50 per ton of carbon dioxide is predicted to raise the price of gasoline by 26 percent….

Consider the trucking industry.  Its average fleet fuel economy is roughly 6.5 miles per gallon — so traveling 1,000 miles requires 154 gallons of gasoline.  At $3 a gallon, this costs $462.  If carbon dioxide emissions are priced at $25 per ton, then gas prices would rise by 50 cents per gallon.[11]  If gasoline costs three dollars per gallon (re-carbon tax), the price of gas could increase by as much as 16 percent.


Like any economist, Kahn is quick to use numbers and do calculations.  But he needs to double check the ones he publishes.

Let’s set aside the confusing construction “A carbon permit price of $50 per ton of carbon dioxide” which would be considerably clearer without the first “carbon.”

Let’s (temporarily) set aside the fact that trucks use diesel fuel not gasoline.

I knew the number was wrong from my days at DOE working on the Five Lab study, which notes the key fact to remember about a carbon price is: “$50 per tonne of carbon corresponds to 12.5 cents per gallon of gasoline.”  Translating to CO2 and tons tells us that if CO2 is priced at $25/ton, gas prices would rise 25 cents per gallon — not 50 cents.

That is a factor of 2 error.  Could happen to anyone, right?

I would call that only a medium-sized err0r, except for one thing — the author has referenced footnote 11, which does the calculation from first principles:

A gallon of gasoline creates roughly 22 pounds of carbon dioxide.  This equals (22/2000) tons; valued at $25 per ton this creates 25 x 22/2000 dollars’ worth of social cost.

Uhh, Prof. Kahn, “25 x 22/2000 dollars” is 27.5 cents — not 50.

Doh!  Kahn’s footnote gives the right answer, but the text that cites the footnote gives the wrong answer! And not just once, but twice.  On page 213, Kahn writes, “It is possible that by the middle of the twenty-first century carbon taxes could be $100 per ton. If carbon prices rise this high, this would be the equivalent of placing a $2-per-gallon tax on gasoline.”  No.  Again, $100 a ton price for CO2 is closer to $1 a gallon tax on gasoline

But wait, there’s more sloppiness.  In Kahn’s calculation above he writes, “A gallon of gasoline creates roughly 22 pounds of carbon dioxide.”  In fact, as EPA notes here, “CO2 emissions from a gallon of gasoline … = 19.4 pounds/gallon” whereas “CO2 emissions from a gallon of diesel … = 22.2 pounds/gallon.”  (The US Energy Information administration uses 19.5 and 22.4.)

Kahn has done his calculation in the footnote with the correct fuel for trucks, diesel, but he insists on calling the fuel ‘gasoline’ in both the text and the footnote. Double Doh!

This kind of easily-checked sloppiness runs throughout the book.  If I wanted to waste another hour I could give you a half a dozen examples.  Here’s one.  Kahn devotes a page and a half to a discussion he titles, “The Birth of a Hydrogen Hummer.”  Seriously.  It includes these lines:

If smart engineers could design a hydrogen Hummer, Arnold Schwarzenegger could have the best of both worlds, enjoying his tanks while releasing zero carbon emissions. Carbon pricing in a social media campaign celebrating the virtuousness of owning such a vehicle would stimulate demand for it.

Uhh, Prof. Kahn, back in February, the media reported that the deal GM had to sell Hummer failed (reported on CP here), at which time this section should’ve been pulled from the book entirely.  On April 7, 2010, “General Motors officially said it is shutting down the Hummer SUV brand.”

Also, more than 90% of U.S. hydrogen is made from natural gas in a process that releases considerable carbon dioxide.  Carbon-free hydrogen is certainly possible to make, but quite expensive.  Kahn has no discussion whatsoever of this issue here.

Back in March 2009 (if not earlier), it was clear the California simply didn’t have the money needed to put together even a minimal hydrogen infrastructure (see “California Hydrogen Highway R.I.P.“).  Again, Kahn has no discussion of the well-known hydrogen fueling infrastructure problem.

Basically, Kahn just opines on stuff that he doesn’t know very much about in this book, not just climate science but also energy.  On page 201 he writes:

Climate change will increase the demand for electricity, and climate change mitigation effort (such as a carbon tax) will mean that we are increasingly generating electricity using unreliable, renewable power generation (such as wind turbines). When the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine, these “green” renewables produce little power. Serious spikes electricity prices are likely to occur.

Seriously, this is about the depth with which he approaches most subjects.  He appears not to heard very much about energy storage — he might start here:  “The Holy Grail of clean energy economy is in sight: Affordable storage for wind and solar.”  He appears not to heard about concentrated solar thermal power at all, since it can rather trivially generate power when the sun doesn’t shine (see “Concentrated solar thermal power Solar Baseload “” a core climate solution“).  While he can imagine and opine on a carbon-free hydrogen Hummer, a vehicle that has no future, he is apparently unaware that many believe it quite plausible that electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could help provide some of the storage for intermittent renewables.  For the record, if we put in place a steadily rising price on carbon and other intelligent clean energy problems, there is no reason to think we will see more electricity price spikes than we have in the past, and we’d probably see fewer.


For completeness’s sake, let me revise and extend my earlier debunking.

A key “thesis” of this book is that people will just move to northern cities and be fine.  And so 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 is Kahn’s #1 choice as  the most “climate resilient” US city.  Not!

“Salt Lake City cannot flood” he writes on page 7.  Apparently it never occurred to Kahn to Google  “Salt Lake City flood” or he would have seen this:

State Street, Salt Lake City - City Creek Flood 1983

State Street/800 South Salt Lake City – City Creek Flood – 1983


But I’ll grant that, in general, the big climate problem facing Salt Lake City isn’t too much water.

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.

Back in 2007, Science (subs. req’d) published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” “” levels of aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas to California.  This year, the National Center for Atmospheric Research warned that by mid-century, the South West faces a drought index worse than that of the 1930s dust bowl [click to enlarge, details here]

drought map 3 2060-2069

The maps use a common measure, the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which assigns positive numbers when conditions are unusually wet for a particular region, and negative numbers when conditions are unusually dry. A reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought”¦.”

See also two more studies discussed here:  “U.S. southwest could see a 60-year drought like that of 12th century “” only hotter “” this century.”

So, no, Salt Lake City is not one of the US cities with a very bright climatic future.  Quite the reverse.

On page 70, he writes, “people sent to Houston will be safe from scary climate change risks such as flooding”!  Well, yes, it rises to about 43 to 50 feet above sea level, but parts of the city are quite near the coast and low-lying.  And has Kahn never heard of hurricanes?  I dare say that by the second half of the century, the citizens of Houston, especially the eastern suburbs, will be concerned about flooding pretty much every summer.

I apologize for not warning you to put your head in a vise for this review.

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, as I’ve pointed out, only a very, very 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 it doesn’t.

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!

David Satterthwaite makes a good point about two of the book’s “major flaws” in his review:

The first is that Kahn does not recognize that reduction of greenhouse gas emissions needs to be among our highest priorities right now. As the IPCC assessments make clear, any delay in getting an effective global agreement to reduce emissions makes it all the more unlikely that we will be able to avoid dangerous climate change. The book focuses too much on the short term””the likely impacts over the next few decades””and ignores times further in the future, when the effects of climate change may be grave if we take no action now. Kahn, although he acknowledges that large-scale reductions in carbon emissions would be required to lower the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, does not appear to understand that well-off households will need to do a lot more than buy an efficient washing machine and air conditioner and the latest Prius.

The second problem is that Kahn does not understand the scale and nature of the risk facing most cities (and national economies) in low- and middle-income countries. The book purports to be about cities worldwide; there are passing references to places such as London, Paris, Berlin and Masdar (in Abu Dhabi), and a chapter is devoted to cities in China. But the chief focus is on cities in the United States: A whole chapter is devoted to New York City, and large portions of another chapter deal with Los Angeles; Miami, New Orleans, Detroit, Salt Lake City and others are also discussed. Kahn assumes that low- and middle-income countries will have problems similar to those of wealthy countries, and that cities in the poorest nations will have the same adaptive capacity as prosperous Chinese cities. He admires China, and although he has no good word for governments in wealthy democracies, he thinks that China will have an adaptation edge because of its governance, and because of its skilled population. He vastly overestimates the capacity of cities in low-income and many middle-income nations to adapt. He also greatly overestimates the likelihood that insurance will support needed adaptations; only a very small proportion of urban residents in low-income nations have disaster insurance. After all, why should insurance companies offer policies to people with limited ability to pay, whose levels of risk are already high and increasing?

The book is focused on rich countries.  Bangladesh — you’re on your own, you don’t even merit an entry in the book’s index!

And Kahn is not a mitigation guy.  Indeed, as we’ve seen, 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.

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40 Responses to Review: Climatopolis: How our cities will thrive in the hotter future by Matthew Kahn is not a good book

  1. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Our adaption strategy thus far: Put fingers in ears and yell really loudly “not happening, not happening”.

    Now compare that with my adaption strategy: run around in circles shouting “is too, is too”. So much more effective.

  2. George Ennis says:

    You should see how some of the towns and cities in Canada’s eastern provinces are “thriving” in this hotter world. There are opportunities everywhere as infrastructure is washed away in extreme weather (rain) events. The only drawback to all this “thriving” is the cost as in the hundreds of millions. I can just imagine what an even hotter world is promising these provinces.

    I would have mentioned the how the southwestern part of the province of Ontario is “thriving” in this hotter world which is resulting in the Great Lakes taking longer to freeze over except all that “thriving” has simply buried some cities and towns under snow as a result of a regional extreme weather event (snow).

    I could go on but it seems there are a few naysayers on all this thriving for towns and cities in Canada. Apparently some of the property insurance companies are growing nervous about the cost of all these extreme weather events such as flooding in parts of Montreal.

    Perhaps “thriving” has a different meaning in the rest of the world then it does in the US?

  3. Green says:

    This was a great review Joe and I want to thank you for convincing me to save my money on this one. Not only are your assertions regarding the carbon offset equations right on, but as a Seattle-ite (for the winter anyway)we are all well aware here how the almost certain rise in sea level will make this city one of the least desirable places to settle in the second half of the century.

    Well done. Climatopolis is now off my reading list.

  4. Solar Jim says:

    Most establishment economists I know of just make stuff up. Kind of like investment banksters. They spout delusional propaganda for personal gain. Many economists seem to be in the protection racket for mining and weapons industries, you know for explosives like uranium and petrochemicals. Sycophants you might say.

    They seem to be like former fed chair Greenspan who said his whole intellectual construct of how the world works turned out to be wrong. “Oops, sorry about that, western world economies. I’ll take your money and go home now. Good luck with that climate stuff.”

    By the way, today’s new tax bill contains about ten billion in new subsidies for, you guessed it, mining industries. Not to mention tax breaks for the rich (same thing). Coal for your stocking? Carbonic acid gas for your next breath? How ’bout a generous helping of drought, flooding and propaganda.

    This book should be as successful as Bjorn’s movie. Unfortunately, that seems to be the way the British and American empires are also headed. Oil tankers on stormy oceans and invasions of foreign lands, that’s the way we have it. Tar nations.

    Cities are going to get hammered, just like all the rest of us.

  5. mike roddy says:

    Good analysis.

    A long time ago Herman Kahn wrote a book called “Thinking the Unthinkanle”, whoch was don’t worry be happy about nuclear war. Same kind of insanity.

  6. cr says:

    Green, I’d still read the book, just see if a local library has a copy.

    It’s still good for the many opportunities it presents to want to bang your head on a desk or wall (the Salt Lake City never floods was the most extreme of those moments).

  7. Anonymous says:

    Seattle is about to get a Big Dig type tunnel going right through the center of the city waterfront. The bored tunnel will go about 100 feet below sea level and then exit to streets within 3 feet of sea level

    Here is the sea level rise map:

    and here is the tunnel visualization

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    The 2010 in floods in Canada cost them a 14% decline in grain production. 1.5 Billion US dollars.

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    About 10 miles of berms were ultimately built several miles from the gulf coastline at a cost of $220 million, with construction paid for entirely by BP. Louisiana officials estimated that the berms stopped roughly 1,000 barrels of oil from the spill.

    $220,000 per barrel.

  10. catman306 says:

    Climate change is a lottery. Some cities (or plants or animals) will ‘thrive’ for a few years. Then the great equalizers of steady-state bad weather (making agriculture impossible) and unpredictable extreme events (destroying homes and infrastructure) will end their good fortunes. Other cities (or plants or animals) will have a bad time of it at first, then start to do better for a few years only to fall back into decline as the climate changes further. Scientifically derived predictions about which ones will advance or decline will prove to be only slightly more reliable than the systems that people who buy lottery tickets use. There will be no long-term ‘winners’ during this unprecedented climate change event. Hopefully there will be some survivors. If not, the Universe will hardly notice.

  11. George Ennis says:

    What makes me angry about those proposing that we can adapt is that it all seems so reasonable right now. But what happens when for example in Canada where I live we are hit repeatedly by extreme weather events of heat, drought and flooding not just in one province but in multiple provinces possibly in a single year and consecutively for even a few. At one point does the capacity of our federal government begin to buckle in its ability to help regions hit?

    Keep in mind that all of this talk of adaptation is not going to be neatly spread over decades. Its likely to hit in large amounts which will drain the country’s finances. In addition there is this small matter of an aging population which we have to manage over the next three decades at least, which translates into built in calls on the government’s financial capacity. It seems adaptation is going to involve a very nasty form of triage between competing public policy issues. It’s not going to be pretty and the longer we wait on reducing emissions the more we will be torn between spending on technologies to reduce C02 emissions and adapting to the climate mess we have already created.

  12. Barry says:

    It was a paradise for lizards when young Brigham saw it first

    He said “I’ve seen some nasty deserts, lord, but this one here’s the worst”

    Then the lord called down to Brigham, said “I got a great idea —

    I want a mighty city and I think I want it here”

    — Grateful Dead

    And that was before “Hell and No Water” came knocking.

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    The heaviest rain is expected to target central California with the western slopes of the Sierra being hit the hardest. Rainfall totals, according to Western Expert Ken Clark, could reach at least 6 inches on these western slopes with the potential for up to a foot in some locations.

    I’ve seen this movie before.

  14. Barry says:

    Pithy review: “Some cities won’t suck right away.”

  15. BBHY says:

    “CO2 emissions from a gallon of gasoline … = 19.4 pounds/gallon”

    That figure has always annoyed me. With electric cars, we always have to include the entire production chain, and always assume that 100% of the power comes from coal.

    Yet the 19.4 lbs/gal figure only includes the final product. We have to assume that gasoline springs magically from the ground, fully refined, right at the local filling station. Nothing about drilling, pumping, refining, transporting, etc. Not to mention all the natural gas that was flared off in the process. Somehow that carbon doesn’t make it into the atmosphere?

    And don’t even get me started on oil shale. And spills. And…

    Oh, and great book review/destruction.

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Re Colorado Bob, about the california rain

    Heavy rain can trigger earthquakes

    610 EQ California

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    ‘Quake Swarm’ Hits Community East Of San Diego

    A rare earthquake phenomenon called a “quake swarm” has set off more than 100 earthquakes in southern California, including Wednesday’s 4.4 magnitude quake that hit east of San Diego.

    Abbott said the last swarm took place in 1975, when Brawley shook for four days with 339 quakes, with the strongest being a 4.7.
    Brawley is located between the Imperial Fault and the San Andreas Fault and is surrounded by hot magma rocks that heat the water and absorb a lot of the volatile energy.
    “So we’re getting a different style of earthquakes, numerous small earthquakes in warm rock rather than saving up a lot of energy and having a more violent rupture,” said Abbott.
    Abbott said he doesn’t believe this swarm of quakes will have much affect on the two nearby faults.

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    Mexico Quake Studies Uncover Surprises for California

    PASADENA, Calif. — New technologies developed by NASA and other agencies are revealing surprising insights into a major earthquake that rocked parts of the American Southwest and Mexico in April, including increased potential for more large earthquakes in Southern California

    … experimental virtual reality scenarios show a substantial chance of a damaging earthquake north of Baja within three to 30 years of a Baja quake like the one in April.

  19. Mike says:

    OK. So, we relocate 100s of millions of people from 3rd world countries to say Greenland. Russians are very generous, so they they won’t mind the Chinese migrating to Siberia. That’s should be no big deal. I’m not sure what they will eat but economists will figure something out.

    My only question is where do we relocate marine life? Could we transplant coral reefs to the Arctic Ocean? We could dump in lots of baking soda to buffer it. (Maybe I should by stock in Arm & Hammer!)

    If the warming continues past 2100, people could just move to Antarctica. And if things get really bad, there is always Mars. Real estate there is cheap! (Just trying to think like an economist.)

    [JR: Funny stuff!]

  20. Ed Hummel says:

    Anonymous #16, I should point out that population bottlenecks many times also result in the extinction of the species that experiences it. Don’t forget that luck and contingency play a huge role in the survival or extinction of any species as the late Steven Jay Gould always liked to point out. Besides, even if we have a huge population crash by at least the second half of this century, the built in warming forcing and positive feedbacks that will most likely continue to accelerate even as our numbers continue to crash will also make life awfully hard for most other species on whom we depend for our own survial. I see a worst case scenario by the end of this century of a situation comparable to KT extinction event of 65 million years and our fossil fuel based civilization is the asteroid. On a geologic time scale, the two are quite similar.

  21. Solar Jim says:

    “Brawley is located between the Imperial Fault and the San Andreas Fault and is surrounded by hot magma rocks”

    I’m sure there are no plans to tap geothermal energy there, make electricity and power a metro network of urban rail transit and personal electrics. That wouldn’t make sense since we are the fossil combustion culture of federalized indebtedness.

  22. Robert H says:

    Six inches of rain from a storm in northern California is commonplace for December; if it is spread out over the better part of a week, as this series of events is predicted to be, then it will be very welcome and not particularly threatening. Remember, California’s average annual precipitation varies from less than five inches in the deserts to over 100 inches in the northern coastal mountains; what would be astounding and devastating for Palm Springs would be a pleasant sprinkle in the Redwoods.

    By the way, why is Economics thought of as a science? It seems its ability to predict events is right up there with astrology and phrenology.

  23. Robert says:

    OK, now that I know what book not to read. What are the titles of the 5 or 10 or 15 books that I should read about climate change/global warming?

  24. Lou Grinzo says:

    BBHY asked about the actual emissions from a gallon of gasoline. I can’t find the source at the moment, but there is a detailed study on this floating around, and as best I can remember the full production life cycle adds about 30% to that 19.4 lbs of CO2/gallon value. So it is definitely a non-trivial addition.

    (I’m sure that the DOE/EIA might object to including that way of counting emissions, as the CO2 from extracting and refining and transporting the oil are accounted for, but in other categories, like manufacturing. But I think it’s worth pointing out that using less gasoline is an even better idea than is commonly assumed.)

  25. David B. Benson says:

    (1) Joe Romm’s Hell and High Water
    (2) Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees
    (3) David Archer’s The Long Thaw

  26. Mike says:

    This is from page eight of Kahn’s book:

    “[T]he innovative capitalist culture will allow us to make a Houdini-style escape from climate change’s most devastating impacts.”

    This is more bizarre than my parody above (#20). Houdini died because he refused to listen to medical advise. He was, you guessed it, in denial about his medical condition. He had appendicitis.

  27. LosAngelista says:

    I attended a talk by Professor Kahn a few months ago in Los Angeles, much of which focused on strategies for minimizing the energy used for air conditioning in a warming climate.His coping strategy for LA was to relocate businesses and housing from downtown (and east) to newly built housing and offices packed in closer to the coast (but not too close!), since it’s often 20 degrees cooler there.For Moscow, he suggested the first to market with an efficient room air conditioner would prosper. My sense was that he had a superficial, short-term grasp of the consequences forecast due to climate change. For instance, he did not mention increasing urban ozone due to rising temperatures, which should be an obvious topic for a UCLA professor addressing climate change in LA, since so much public policy in Southern California aims to reduce ambient ozone.

  28. Mike says:

    Logic (NOT): Free markets solve problems. Climate change is a problem. Therefore the free market will solve the climate change problem!

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I think Anonymous #16 lets us into the mentality of many Rightwingers. Not all Rightists are denialists, although nearly all denialists are of the Right. Some Rightists plainly see rapid, catastrophic, climate change as an opportunity. An opportunity to see the planet depopulated of billions of ‘useless eaters’ who they fear and despise. They plainly think that the rich few can ‘ride out’ the coming apocalypse and inherit a world cleansed of those they despise for racial, religious, ideological and other reasons.

  30. Hengist says:

    Excellent Joe. Another book I don’t need to read.

  31. Mike says:

    Hengist: IMHO, it is especially important to read the books we disagree with.

  32. Mimikatz says:

    The big issue in California will be water. When the Sierra snow and glaciers are greatly reduced, and as rising sea levels drive saline waters further up the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and the Delkta levees fail, the whole California Water Projsct and federal Central Valley Project unravel. The other main source for urban So Cal is the Colorado, where drought is already beginning to cut into water deliveries. Water is the limiting factor in most of CA and the Southwest. The CA Dept of Water Resoruces is fairly6 panicked about this. Isn’t De Long at Berkeley? How could he have missed the fact that all the water here comes from the mountains?

  33. PurpleOzone says:

    Salt Lake City can’t Flood!? I’ve been there and seen the beach shelves half way up the mountains left by Lake Bonneville. About 10 thousand years ago, the entire climate was different as the glaciers dumped water in a land-locked area.

  34. PurpleOzone says:

    #16 anonymous: There’s a random quality to culling. A man was ‘culled’ last winter by the fall of a tree in the median strip across his car. His family in the car was unhurt.

    The ground was soaked by a succession of 4 rainstorms, each of which dumped many more inches of rain than usual.

    My homeowner’s insurance has gone up substantially, mostly due to abnormal weather. Already I’m thinking global warming is not fun to be around, and it’s just starting.

    Your bloodless musings about ‘culling’ show your ignorance. You forget to consider the possibility you may be the one ‘culled’ — or grievously damaged.

  35. “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…”

    Even if he doesn’t know enough climate science to understand the impact of global warming of Fargo, as an economist, he should be thinking about cost. What is the cost of abandoning millions of housing units in New York and other American cities and building millions of new housing units in Fargo? How does that compare with the cost of controlling global warming and keeping New York livable?

  36. RobLL says:

    A minor observation regarding the Seattle map. Fairly close to the Ship Canal outlet into the Puget Sound are the Chittenden Locks which connect with the rest of the canal, Lake Union, and Lake Washington. These latter bodies of water will not be directly affected by sea level rise until the some 20 feet difference between current lake levels and sea levels is exceeded.

  37. David B. Benson says:

    The cities will be empty as there will be no food.

  38. Edward says:

    “by the 2030s, if not sooner, all of the major economies of the world will be focusing all of their economic policy desperately on adaptation and mitigation.”

    I believe you.

    “The 2010 in floods in Canada cost them a 14% decline in grain production. 1.5 Billion US dollars.
” Thanks Colorado Bob

    Economics presupposes the existence of a stable civilization and the invention of money. A stable civilization with money requires creatures that are at least marginally rational and intelligent and slightly knowledgeable. A stable civilization also requires an adequate food supply. The collapse of agriculture inevitably leads to the collapse of civilization and the collapse of money and economics. Economics is unable to go outside of its founding presuppositions. Global warming climatology MUST concern itself with the collapse of civilization and the possible extinction of the supposedly rational intelligent knowledgeable creatures. Climate change is therefore impossible for economists to imagine AS LONG AS THEY REMAIN ECONOMISTS.

    Thus the problem of economists who speak on the subject of global warming. Being economists, they assume the impossible, which is that agriculture can not collapse, civilization can not collapse and Homo Sapiens can not go extinct. Being economists, they are unable to imagine anything outside of the basic presuppositions of economics. They have made those assumptions implicitly since long before their careers began. They cannot do otherwise. They are money oriented. It is a basic part of their personalities. They cannot change by themselves.

    Our project, therefore, is to make economists quit being economists before civilization collapses. It is only by taking them outside of their economic world view that they can be shown how to imagine another world, a world without economics. We have to somehow show them the limitations of the boundaries of their world. We have to shock them into the realization that their world is a very small subset of reality.

  39. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Edward #38, I think that your criticisms of economists are cogent, but apply in particular to neo-liberal or market fundamentalist economists, whose baleful cult, with its risible pretensions to the status of ‘science’ while holding axioms so ludicrous as to be almost beyond parody, is but a smokescreen behind which the real business, that of ruthlessly exploiting (and incidentally destroying) humanity and looting the planet, all for the sole purpose of endlessly enriching an insatiably avaricious global parasite class, proceeds ad destructum.

  40. Aaron says:

    It seems that most of you miss the point of Kahn’s book. Why is it so stupid to point out that people will change their behavior in response to climate change? I don’t think he claims to know how people will respond, and I don’t think he’s asserting that the world should not reduce emissions right now. He’s merely pointing out that people will adapt to climate change, and he’s speculating about the nature of that adaptation.

    “A person with little or no economics training often ignores incentives entirely, by treating people like robots who just respond to their programming. They keep on doing what they’re doing, however much we alter their surroundings. A lousy economist regards people as more sophisticated robots. They change their behavior in response to changes in their incentives, but only in specified and highly predictable ways. A good economist realizes that human beings are imaginative and clever. They change their behavior in response to incentives in both predictable and unpredictable ways, constantly seeking to improve their lives in light of new conditions. Failure to recognize this aspect of human nature makes us vulnerable to all manner of errors, in our businesses, personal lives, charitable efforts, and government policies.” Stolen from