There are many debates about how the world’s cities, from the built environment to the behaviors of city dwellers, will adapt to rising temperatures and climate change. Tomorrow the Matthew Kahn, one of the world’s foremost experts on the economics of the environment and author of Climatopolis will be speaking at the Rudin Center’s Livability Summit. Here is an excerpt from his book, a longer portion can be found here.
The rise of this mega-city foreshadows China’s trajectory over the 21st century—and that of the rest of the world. Hundreds of millions will be moving to cities like Shanghai to strike it rich and escape the rural life as more and more of the world’s population continues the shift that’s been going on, in fits and starts, since the Industrial Revolution: moving from the rural to the urban. By 1950,30 percent of the world’s population lived in cities. In 2000 this fraction grew to 47 percent, and the United Nations predicts it will rise to 60 percent by 2030. Like you and me these would-be city dwellers want economic opportunities and material comforts that we take for granted:cell phones (and decent service), personal computers, access to private transportation and household air conditioning.Given this search for the good life,and the amenities that go with it, the move toward urban life makes sense. Cities are capitalism’s growth engine, offering opportunity along every dimension from finding a job to support yourself, a mate to spend your money on, great cultural events to attend with them, and fantastic restaurants of all kinds.And, maybe, a bit later, parks to take the kids to. City growth has lifted billions of people out of poverty.