'Urbanism Is the Most Cost-Effective Solution to Climate Change,' says Calthorpe

Phil Langdon reviews Peter Calthorpe's latest, called 'Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change'. Langdon says it is "a densely packed, yet concise overview of the troubling situation we all find ourselves in."

Calthorpe doesn't reject technological fixes (he believes renewable energy sources will get cheaper and more ubiquitous) but he sees urbanism as a more effective means of reducing our individual energy use than switching to electric cars:

"A chief virtue of urbanism, he avers, is that it 'naturally tends toward a 'small is beautiful' philosophy.' 'Compact development does mean smaller yards, fewer cars, and less private space for some. On the other hand, it can dramatically reduce everyday costs and leave more time for family and community.'"

Thanks to Robert Steuteville

Full Story: Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change

Comments

Comments

Better Than Cost Effective

There are many cost-effective solutions to climate change. For example, many energy conservation measures pay for themselves in energy savings and give you a good rate of return.

And there are also solutions that are better than cost effective. These solutions are a matter of not doing things that are environmentally destructive and that make our lives less satisfying. The two prime example are:

--Walkable neighborhoods: As Calthorpe and many New Urbanists say, we can reduce emissions and make our cities more livable by building walkable neighborhoods rather than auto-dependent neighborhoods. Auto-dependent sprawl suburbs are not only environmentally destructive; they also make our lives harder, more expensive, and less satisfying.

--Choice of work hours: We reduce emissions and improve our work-life balance by offering employees choice of work hours, as they do in Germany and the Netherlands. Because shorter hours are voluntary, people only choose them if they think their lives will be more satisfying if the work and consume less and instead have more free time. Our standard 40-hour work week is not only environmentally destructive; it also makes our lives harder and less satisfying.

Cost effective solutions involve spending money and getting a good return on your investment. These two solutions are better than cost effective because they involve getting the environmental benefits by spending less money.

Charles Siegel

There's effective, then there's efficiently effective.

I agree Charles, yet not everyone wants to live in a dense environment. Some will move when energy becomes too expensive, but not everyone. So we must make everyone's building envelopes and transport much more efficient for those who don't want density in their dwelling places.

Best,

D

Efficiency and Simplicity

Dano, I agree with you. I definitely think we should use all available cost-effective methods for promoting energy efficiency and reducing emissions - but we should also move toward simpler living.

Density and shorter work hours may not be for everyone, but let's offer the choice to those people who do want them.

Incidentally, when I talk about walkable neighborhoods, I am not just thinking of dense urban neighborhoods. Streetcar suburbs can also be walkable.

Charles Siegel

Calthorpe is wrong

Calthorpe is wrong. Having fewer children is the most effective solution to climate change.

Population and Climate Change

We have been through this before.

The world must cut CO2 emissions 50% by 2050 in order to keep CO2 levels to 450 ppm and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

It is very obviously impossible to cut world population enough by 2050 to make population the largest component of this change.

Zero population growth is essential to long-term sustainability. Limiting population growth can contribute to controlling global warming. But limiting population growth cannot possible be the most important solution to climate change.

Charles Siegel

Population, Man-Made Climate Change and IPAT

Having fewer children is the most effective solution to climate change.

and

The world must cut CO2 emissions 50% by 2050 in order to keep CO2 levels to 450 ppm and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

It is very obviously impossible to cut world population enough by 2050 to make population the largest component of this change...[b]ut limiting population growth cannot possible be the most important solution to climate change.

While IPAT is not perfect, it is an excellent framework for policy.

I = P x A x T

Since we know - at scales that matter to human lifetimes - that we cannot reduce population (and that population may become more exploitative) to reduce impacts of climate change, we look to the other two factors, a and t.

What policies/market signals can be enacted to utilize the other two factors to reduce climate change impacts?

Best,

D

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