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Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future Hardcover – September 7, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kahn (Green Cities) takes a sanguine look at how cities will fare under climate change. He admits that global warming could be catastrophic, but "a small cadre of forward-looking entrepreneurs will be ready to get rich selling the next generation of products that will help us all to adapt" and that "the story will have a happy ending." Analyses of global cities yield such scattershot observations as that by helping people rebuild in disaster-prone areas such as flood zones, governments "actually put more people at risk;" that "due to its recent economic development, China will be spared horrible outcomes faced by other developing nations;" and that globalization will protect us against local agricultural failures (and if crops fail everywhere, entrepreneurs will have incentives to provide dried fruit instead of fresh). On how the urban poor will cope with climate change, Kahn shrugs his shoulders writing, "the truth is that this group has always faced hardship…the question is, how much worse will their quality of life be?" In comparison with the abundance of thoughtful and astute books predicting life under climate change, this one is remarkably shallow.
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From Booklist

As the scientific consensus continues to grow about Earth’s dramatically rising temperatures, the media’s vision of global warming’s likely catastrophic effects on mankind has become increasingly gloomy. Kahn, a UCLA environmental economics professor, doesn’t question most climatologists’ dire predictions, but argues here that mankind is resilient enough to adapt and even thrive despite the coming geographic disruptions. Kahn’s main focus is on urban areas where he anticipates that forward-looking entrepreneurs will take advantage of crisis-driven opportunities to offer innovative goods and services. Kahn begins by looking at historical examples of cities that bounced back from war and natural disasters, and moves on to analyze “green” cities and water usage economics as a windup to forecasting how specific cities like L.A. and New York might adjust to scorching temperatures or flooding. Kahn makes several assumptions that will no doubt anger environmentalists, including the notion that globalization will compensate for widespread agricultural failures. Yet compared to the global warming worst-case scenarios offered by Hollywood, his optimistic emphasis on humanity’s ingenuity and adaptability is refreshing. --Carl Hays

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465019269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465019267
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,580,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matthew E. Kahn is a Professor of Economics at USC. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the IZA. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago. He has taught at Columbia, the Fletcher School at Tufts University and at UCLA. He has served as a Visiting Professor at Harvard and Stanford University and the National University of Singapore. He is the author of four books including; Green Cities: Urban Growth and the Environment (Brookings Institution Press 2006), Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War (Princeton University Press 2008 joint with Dora L. Costa), and Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter World (Basic Books 2010). His Amazon $1 book; Fundamentals of Environmental and Urban Economics was posted on May 2015. In May 2016, Princeton University Press will publish his co-authored book; Blue Skies in Beijing: Economic Growth and the Environment in China. His research areas include; environmental, urban, energy and real estate economics.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Adam on August 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As an energy economics grad student, I picked up this book because the description held the promise that it would dovetail nicely with my own research interests, and I thought the book's author Matthew Kahn, a UCLA economics professor, might provide a thoughtful and informative look at a subject that has received less attention than it deserves from both academics and journalists.

There might be a good, if extremely short, book on climate change adaptation buried somewhere between these pages. Finding it though, amid the numerous non sequiturs, annoying digressions, unsupported criticisms, and bizarre conclusions proves a daunting task. Kahn's writing style is distracting, filled with poor attempts at self-deprecating humor and continual incitements to ridicule of opposing positions after criticizing them incompletely, at best. There is also a remarkable lack of specificity in the book, a paucity of citations for claims or conclusions that should have them (and a glut of Wikipedia references for tangents and trivialities), and many of the conclusions based on legitimate research are misapplied (research on short-term local exogenous shocks is unabashedly applied to global climate change).

I suppose Kahn needs to be congratulated for at least acknowledging climate change, even though he seems to think it's something that will work itself out given time so long as government doesn't get involved, a statement he makes ad nauseum while carefully foregoing much evidence for his position. Empirical data is apparently reserved for behavioral economists who he constantly derides without explanation, a recurring theme as most of his policy critiques, many of which I agree with, receive cursory treatment and a premature dismissal.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By JoeInLA on January 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am surprised there are so few reviews - and one so blatantly off-the-'mark, that I wanted to offer my take:

I heard Professor Kahn speak in November 2010, and raced out to buy his book. His writing style is as engaging as his speaking. I was also amazed to note that his PhD education is the product of two Nobel Laureates - from the University of Chicago. These guys are not known as liberal, Keynesian economists.

What the reader enjoys is a truly balanced, realistic approach to our most pressing climate challenges: 1) it is already started, 2) the US is unlikely to take any painful steps now, (our defining trait!), so 3) any solutions will be brought forth by the market.

When I first saw this book published, I thought it was going to be some climate-change denial book. Now that I have read it, I know Kahn brings NO agenda - he does illustrate the opportunity climate change brings to all: some will thrive in the new environment and some will be forced to change: cities, nations and people.

The book is both eye- opening and well- written. Kahn writes the book in a way that is accessible for businesspeople like myself as well as engaging for those without economics background.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on August 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Most of what's been written about climate change seems to have focused on mitigation: that is, what (if anything) should be done to prevent climate change. (I include denialist literature in this category, since its purpose is usually to argue that nothing should be done).

But this book takes a different tack: it focuses on adaptation- that is, assuming climate change is inevitable, what can cities and nations do about it? This sort of book really has a pretty limited market; the far Left won't like it because they will reject the assumption that human civilization can survive climate change, and the far Right won't like it because they don't want to believe that any unwelcome climate change could ever possibly occur.

Kahn's assumptions, of course, are quite different. He assumes that climate change will not be lethal enough to bring us back to the Dark Ages, but will still cause quite a few natural disasters, enough to influence where we will want to live.

Given those assumptions, Kahn believes some places will do better than others. Big winners (at least compared to the rest of the U.S.) will be cold inland cities like Buffalo; warmer weather will help them, and they won't suffer from rising sea levels.

He devotes a chapter each to Los Angeles and New York. Places with warm weather (like Los Angeles) will be big losers as warm weather becomes unpleasantly hot weather. Kahn also suggests that Los Angeles may face an increased risk of forest fires if climate change reduces rainfall, and that cities may wish to reduce development in "fire zones" near forests (or at least allow insurance premiums to rise in those areas).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Coco on July 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'd give this book as a gift to ANY aspiring Environmental Scientist / Engineer / Activist student or professional. Its very vivid and great book that serves as a great introductory piece to anyone's climate change collection.

I don't have much time to write a review, but in short if you want evidence of climate change, go buy another book. The evidence is out there, and fully FULLY demonstrated to be actually occurring. Please don't deny the science. You can find the details in any other book or educational read about climate change. There have been plenty.

Now those who are aware what is about to happen... and know the science and math behind it... This book gives both an epic and very real depiction on the subject matter. Definitely a book to keep on the coffee table.
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