Climatopolis: How our Cities will Thrive in the Hotter Future.
CLIMATOPOLIS: HOW OUR
CITIES WILL THRIVE IN THE
Matthew E. Kahn
(New York: Basic Books, 2010), 288
Climatopolis, by Matthew Kahn, professor at UCLA's Institute of the Environment, is a provocative and, at rimes, humorous book about how the world's cities will cope with a hotter future. Citing the UN prediction that 60 percent of the world's population will be living in cities by 2030, along with recent macroeconomic trends indicating increases in the world population, per-capita income and greenhouse gas emissions, Kahn focuses not on how urbanites are going to escape a hotter future but rather on how they will adapt to it.
Building on the premise that the world is warming and that cities will be occupied by a growing proportion of the world's population, Kahn places the spotlight on the "delicious irony" of capitalism's evolutionary role in climate change. In chronicling the challenges and opportunities that a hotter future poses for Los Angeles, New York, Beijing, Shanghai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Lagos, among other cities, Kahn argues that just as capitalist growth generated the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, capitalism's dynamism and ability to spur innovation will allow us to adapt to changes in the climate. Simultaneously, Kahn draws attention to the climate-related risks and unintended consequences associated with government intervention and activism. In one particularly common scenario, he outlines how governments have encouraged economic development in flood zones, creating incentives for individuals and developers to take dangerous risks in flood plains because they anticipate government protection.
Irrespective of Kahn's decidedly "human-centric" bias and a lack of wider discussion on Earth's ecosystems, general audiences will find his writing lucid, entertaining and accessible. While Kahn's book is perhaps overly optimistic about the future of cities and contains some tenuous climate-change predictions, it reflects his unwavering confidence in people's ability to adapt through green innovation and offers cogent recommendations for how we might cope with our hotter future.
Edward A. Reynolds