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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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