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How Cities Adapt: A Q&A With Climatopolis Author Matthew Kahn


There are plenty of dire predictions about what will happen to our cities if the worst predictions about global warming were to come true: flooding, droughts, famine, chaos and massive death. But Matthew Kahn, an economist at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, sees a different future. He tells that story in his new book Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future.
Kahn looks to the past for clues to how cities adapt to changing circumstances. Chicago recovered strongly from the devastating Chicago Fire of 1871. He argues that Japanese and German cities recovered rapidly after World War II and experienced sharp population growth. So how will cities adapt in the future? Kahn expects that cities will continue to compete for desirable residents, and that residents will make their own locational decisions based on risk preferences. For example, while the risk-averse may choose to locate to “safe” cities like Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Minneapolis or Detroit (Kahn’s top 5 picks), cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York will continue to attract people. Especially if these cities prepare for a warmer future.
Ultimately, Kahn’s optimistic vision of the future rests on adaptation and innovation: “Unlike the Manhattan Project during World War II, we do not need to make one big bet on the strategy for winning this war. Instead, we will launch a billion mutinies against climate change. In a world with billions of educated, ambitious individuals, the best adaptations and innovations will be pretty good.”? For a longer preview, check out Kahn’s recent essay on Vox.
Kahn has agreed to answer your questions about this topic and his new book, so fire away in the comments section below. As always, we’ll post his answers in good time.