Commentary: Adapting Land Use Policies during a Time of Climate Change

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2017 turned out to be a bad year in the fight against climate change.  2018 has so far turned out to be even worse.  In my archives I pulled out an article from Wired from the end of 2017, “Fighting Climate Change and Building a World to Withstand It.”

They write: “So 2017 taught a lesson, at last, that scientists and futurists have been screaming about. Humanity has to reduce the amount of carbon it’s pumping into the air. Radically. Or every year will be worse from here on out.”

They add: “But 2017 also made plain the shape of the overall disaster. All those fires and floods and outbreaks are symptoms of the same problem, and it’s time to start dealing with that in a clear-eyed way.”

What caught my attention, however, was this line: “[T]he next time someone in a city planning meeting says that new housing shouldn’t get built in a residential area because it’s not in keeping with the sense of the community and might disrupt parking, tell them what that means: that they want young people to have lesser lives, that they don’t want poor people and people of color to have the same opportunities they did, and that they’d rather the planet’s environment get crushed by letting bad buildings spread to inhospitable places than increasing density in cities.”

The question before us is what should our local community do in order to do our part to fight climate change.  It is probably easy, especially at a time when the national government is backing off global climate agreements, to just throw our hands up in the air and give up.

But for those of us who see climate change as the greatest single threat to the future of humanity, we cannot concede this fight.  Not now.  Not at a time when the devastating and total impacts of climate change are becoming more and more obvious.

As the article points out: “This apocalypse doesn’t hurt everyone. Some people benefit. It’s not a coincidence that the FIRE industries also donate the most money to federal political campaigns. Rich people living behind walls they think can’t be breached by any rising tide, literal or metaphoric, made this disaster. And then they gaslighted the vulnerable into distrusting anyone raising the alarm. The people who benefit have made it seem as if this dark timeline was all perfectly fine.”

Is there anything we can do as a community?

California has created climate standards.  Davis has followed suit.

One of the biggest questions that we have to ask is what are we willing to give up in order to save our climate?  Are we willing to give anything up?  Our security?  Our prosperity?  The character of our community?

Those are key questions.  The reality is this: anything that we as a city do is a drop in the bucket.  Anything that we do as a state is a drop in the bucket.  Maybe at the national level we can make a difference.  But where does change come from?  Do we wait for the national government to act or do we do what we can?

I don’t have a good answer.  What I know is that we as a species face a global threat which, if we continue to ignore it, will imperil our future.  We are feeling those effects now.  They will only get worse.  By the time some people are convinced of this threat, it will be far too late.

The question is, what should we as a community do about it?

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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47 thoughts on “Commentary: Adapting Land Use Policies during a Time of Climate Change”

  1. Alan Miller

    2017 taught a lesson, at last, that scientists and futurists have been screaming about.

    Ah, for my college days with screaming scientists.

    “[T]he next time someone in a city planning meeting says that new housing shouldn’t get built in a residential area because it’s not in keeping with the sense of the community and might disrupt parking, tell them what that means: that they want young people to have lesser lives, that they don’t want poor people and people of color to have the same opportunities they did, and that they’d rather the planet’s environment get crushed by letting bad buildings spread to inhospitable places than increasing density in cities.”

    Nothing over-the-top about that statement, esp. in the context of climate change.

    It is probably easy, especially at a time when the national government is backing off global climate agreements, to just throw our hands up in the air and give up.

    Yup.  I’d recommend that.

    This apocalypse doesn’t hurt everyone.

    The rich have apocalypse shields.

    It’s not a coincidence that the FIRE industries also donate the most money to federal political campaigns.

    Specifically to increase the use of fossil fuels to increase destroy ozone so as to increase fires.  Really!

    Rich people living behind walls they think can’t be breached by any rising tide, literal or metaphoric, made this disaster.

    Like in Fountain Grove where the apocalypse shields stopped the fires from gutting all those rich homes — oh yeah, those burned, too.

    And then they gaslighted the vulnerable into distrusting anyone raising the alarm.

    The term gaslight, shining a spotlight on the fact that this is written by a woke individual.

    Is there anything we can do as a community?

    No.  Well, yes, but nothing that will actually do anything.

    California has created climate standards.  Davis has followed suit.

    That’s why we have our own climate.

    One of the biggest questions that we have to ask is what are we willing to give up in order to save our climate?

    Nothing.

    Are we willing to give anything up?

    No.

    Our security?

    No.

    Our prosperity?

    No.

    The character of our community?

    And . . . No.

    I don’t have a good answer.

    Too easy . . .

    The question is, what should we as a community do about it?

    “Bachelor #2!”

  2. Jeff M

    Climate change has devolved into a cult theme for the liberal left.  There is way too much alarmism, hyperbole and hypocrisy to take any of their screeches on the topic seriously… just as it is impossible to take the screeches of a Pentecostal congregation proclaiming that gays will go to hell.

    Liberals seem to be wired to scream alarmism over things out of their reach of control (capitalism, Second Amendment rights, Judge Kavahaugh, changes in climate… to name a few).   Their feeling of helplessness and hopelessness over these things cause them to pursue a never ending list of new demands, rules and restrictions toward some undefined Utopia of all things right and relevant… but end up creating a dystopia of unintended consequences.

    I get some of this because I feel the same way about our political direction in the hands of liberal control.  I am an alarmist about the very long list of unintended consequences that keep accumulating from their very long list of new rules and restrictions.  Liberals see a slippery slope of the earth burning to a cinder from industrial growth, fiscal conservatives like me see a slippery slope of a decimated human condition from the attacks on industrialism and growth in the name of some boneheaded idea that they, liberals, can control the climate (Science says that we cannot turn back the clock on global warming even if we stopped burning fossil fuels today).

    Emotions suck.  They really do.  Them make people irrational.  You cannot talk to them.  They scream and cry and throw tantrums.  They don’t listen.  They demand symbolic “solutions” that are non-solutions.  They seek to be made to feel better, instead of seeking to keep the system optimized and healthy.

    I am looking at a book on my shelf of 100s of titles on the topic of leadership and management, and one by Daniel Goleman (with content from the Dalai Lama) stands out… “Destructive Emotions”.

    I suggest that everyone, especially all politically-active liberals, read this book and then let us conservatives know when they are ready to have rational and objective discussions about how we can move forward with policy addressing changes in climate.

    1. Howard P

      Climate change has devolved into a cult theme for the liberal left.  There is way too much alarmism, hyperbole and hypocrisy to take any of their screeches on the topic seriously… just as it is impossible to take the screeches of a conservative right Pentecostal congregation proclaiming that gays will go to hell.

      Filling in adjectives you “accidentally” missed… makes for a balanced observation… one I basically agree with… a lot of folk have brown eyes, and many with blue eyes are a ‘quart short’.

      Climate change is real, and has been for 100’s of thousands of years (and much more).  Actual implications in the here and now are what are open to question, study, and debate.  As is, what can or should be done in real time?

      Our “hard” records of climate are limited in scope/precision.  Who knows what the effect of CO2 increases, one way or the other, ‘depletion of the ozone layer’… the “crisis du jour for humanity”, only a few years ago?

      1. Ron

        Howard:  “Who knows what the effect of CO2 increases, one way or the other . . .”

        Scientists who specialize in that field of study.

        Regarding the depletion of the ozone layer (that you also mentioned), see the following:

        “The ban came into effect in 1989. Ozone levels stabilized by the mid-1990s and began to recover in the 2000s. Recovery is projected to continue over the next century, and the ozone hole is expected to reach pre-1980 levels by around 2075.[4] The Montreal Protocol is considered the most successful international environmental agreement to date.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_depletion

      2. Kendra Smith

        This very in-depth article that was recently published in the NY Times goes over much of this information–including the ozone layer issue.

        https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/01/magazine/climate-change-losing-earth.html

        It’s a very long and involved article, but well worth reading IMO.

        I was surprised to discover that both sides of the political spectrum pretty much agreed that carbon emissions were a problem (back in the late 60s, 70s, and into the 80s), but that changed somewhere around the late 80s, and we are now left with the current partisan fighting about this.

        Even the oil companies, like ExxonMobile, were on board with shifting to cleaner technologies; their own internal scientific studies reached similar conclusions to the scientists studying this issue in the 70s and 80s. But something changed toward the late 80s, when oil companies decided they instead wanted to squeeze every last drop of oil out of the earth and get every last cent they could out of it before it was all gone.

        The article points out that had we taken the rather small steps to curb carbon emissions that were suggested by scientist groups around 1989, we could have held warming to about 2 degrees C. by 2035. Instead, it looks like we are on track to warm up to 4 degrees C. by then (if not sooner).

        What should be done is a reduction in carbon emissions so that we can end up with the least amount of warming possible, so that we come in as far under that 4 degree C mark as possible (to avoid some of the more catastrophic consequences to particular regions). And the US needs to get off of its high horse and sign on to whatever agreement the rest of the world does.

        We also need to start planning for mitigation for those areas of the world that will be affected, because we have gone well past the point where we can’t expect any consequences from this.

        What are most people willing to give up? Roughly nothing. Humans don’t seem capable of thinking in the longterm. Part of the reason this hasn’t been tackled is that our politicians can’t think past the next election cycle, let alone think about what kind of world they are going to leave their grandchildren (or other people’s grandchildren).

        No one wants to do anything that will interfere with their lifestyle and conveniences.

        I think a good start would be getting out of the mindset that owning and driving a car equals “coming of age” or “adulthood” in this country, and that losers don’t have cars. This is no longer necessary with the increase in other options (Uber and Lyft), and we need to invest more in mass transit.

  3. Don Shor

    In terms of land use policies reflecting climate change, it would mean building housing closer to the sources of economic development. Inasmuch as UCD is the economic powerhouse of the region, that would have significant implications for housing development in Davis. If SACOG ever adopted climate change as a primary factor in determining “fair share” housing allotments, Davis would be allotted a lot more housing.

    There is a middle ground on climate change policy. It’s focused on pragmatism. I suggest Burton Richter as a starting point. But he isn’t advocating anything that you won’t find elsewhere: increased nuclear, transition through natural gas from coal, etc.  https://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/december/richter-climate-qanda-122711.html

    Locally, planting trees where trees didn’t grow before is a simple climate change activity that anybody can do, and it’s part of nearly every climate change mitigation strategy.

    1. Don Shor

      What is happening right now, unplanned, is that economic development is emanating from UCD and is causing housing growth in Woodland, Dixon, and West Sacramento. Planners look at these issues regionally. But each city just plans in its own little silo. For Woodland to grow because of UCD isn’t totally unsustainable from a carbon/climate standpoint, since the nearest housing in Spring Lake is literally 5.8 miles from Davis. And it would be pretty easy to develop more transit between the two cities. But a planning process that encompasses the housing impacts of economic development or UC expansion would have those cities doing more joint planning. The regional agencies do provide a format for that. But the one city that I think is unlikely to ever adopt a regional outlook is Davis.

    2. Ron

      Don:  “If SACOG ever adopted climate change as a primary factor in determining “fair share” housing allotments, Davis would be allotted a lot more housing.”

      I understand that UCD is in Yolo county, and is not within Davis city limits. If I’m not mistaken, Yolo county has “fair share” housing requirements, as well. Since UCD is generating the need, one might wonder if UCD can be held responsible for meeting its own “fair share” housing requirements.

  4. Jim Hoch

    “what should we as a community do about it” The most actionable issue is the one we should address first. As people move from the third world to the first their carbon footprint goes up. As an easy measure we should prevent anyone from a second or third world country from moving here.

    1. Don Shor

      As an easy measure we should prevent anyone from a second or third world country from moving here.

      Immigrants authorized to work in the United States workforce are about 12% of the total. Undocumented immigrants are estimated to make up about 5% of the workforce. Our economy would grind to a halt without immigrant labor.

    2. Jeff M

      A logical, albeit somewhat politically-inflammatory, idea.

      It is interesting.  We have Donald Trump labeled a racist and xenophobe because he opines to implement this very idea (although for economic reasons, not environmental reasons) while those leading the chorus of Trump criticism and hate tend to live in the most exclusive and inaccessible communities in the world… thus practically immune from the micro impact of third world immigration while they virtue signal to let more in… while they also wring their hands over environmental impact of greater humanity.

      Your point is a good one.  Many liberals that want open borders also preach for policy of less industrialism and less materialism.  It seems like cognitive dissonance as they are opining for a progressed American life more similar to those that they demand be allowed to migrate here because their lives are not so good.

    3. Jeff M

      Immigrants authorized to work in the United States workforce are about 12% of the total. Undocumented immigrants are estimated to make up about 5% of the workforce. Our economy would grind to a halt without immigrant labor.

      And make up 32% of the federal prison population.

      https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Alien_Incarceration_Report_OIS_FY17_Q4_2.pdf

      Oh the high cost of that “fantastic” immigrant labor.

      I don’t believe that the economy would grid to a halt.  We will just need more lazy and entitled Americans to work for a living rather than collect their benefits from the government.   I worked on farms and ranches during my mid-late teens.  What has changed?

      1. Don Shor

        The economic impact of climate change policies is a valid discussion point in any debate about mitigation and adaptation measures. If one proposes a carbon tax or a regional cap-and-trade system, it is standard for objections to be raised about the possible impact on economic growth. Any policy that has an impact on the labor supply would certainly affect economic growth. There is a reason ag and tech interests push for expanded immigration policies in their respective categories, and that they are among those pushing hardest against ill-considered restrictions on immigration.
        So to dismiss a proposal that would substantially affect +/- 15% of the labor force with “I don’t believe that the economy would grind to a halt” is rather glib. I suggest you look into the impacts of tight labor markets on agriculture.
        Certainly one of the simplest ways to reduce carbon emissions is to throttle the economy. I have heard conservatives accuse environmentalists of wanting to do that. I suggest you consider how you are also casually suggesting the same thing.

        1. Jeff M

          Reasonable point.  However, my larger interest is what is good for the country.  Depressed wages resulting from a large supply of immigrant labor might be good for certain industries, but not necessarily good for the country from a comprehensive viewpoint.

          I know quite a few wealthy farmers.  I don’t have any problem with people getting wealthy from farming, but there is a direct cost to provide services to the poor and educated immigrants that relocate here to provide that cheap farm labor.  That means we are all subsidizing the wealth that these farmers “earn”.  I would prefer a seasonal guest worker program instead.

          And I know quite a few contractors that are growing significant wealth and many of them are exploiting cheap immigrant labor.  Again, there is a tax to society for providing services to these people and thus the cheap labor is being subsidized.  Note that construction costs have skyrocketed even with all the immigrant labor.  Those dollars are not going into the pockets of the workers.

          We have the tech sector demanding STEM-educated immigrants.   And America universities also sucking on the dollars of foreign student tuition.

          Combined I see this as having a corrosive impact on our policies and structures accommodating our existing population.   Otherwise these industries and institutions would need to reform to attract the labor and talent they require from within.

          Ask yourself how the Scandinavian countries so lauded by American liberals manage to cover their industries without needing floods of cheap immigrant labor.

          1. Don Shor

            It is hard for me to imagine that aggressively limiting immigration, cutting back legal visas for tech sector, and the other immigration proposals of the right and the Trump administration would make any positive difference in our carbon emissions.
            The other costs of such proposals are debatable, but it’s not an experiment I’d like to try if my own livelihood depended on it.

        2. Howard P

           I would prefer a seasonal guest worker program instead.

          Yes, the Bracero program… pay sub-minimum wages, zero benefits, no path to citizenship, and don’t slam the door when you leave.

          And I know quite a few contractors that are growing significant wealth and many of them are exploiting cheap immigrant labor.

          I know of one in particular…

          Juan Corona. https://www.google.com/search?q=juan+corona&oq=juan+corona&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.5677j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

          And others who hired undocumented folk, then on ‘pay-day Friday’ called INS (“raids”) so they wouldn’t have to pay the migrant workers/undocumented workers… heard at least two construction folk who prided themselves, and bragged about it, to other conservative Republicans… 40 years ago, but doubt the essence has changed…

        3. Keith O

          heard at least two construction folk who prided themselves, and bragged about it, to other conservative Republicans… 40 years ago, but doubt the essence has changed…

          Yeah right……

          SMH

           

        4. Howard P

          Don… respiration (breathing) is a significant cause of CO2 emissions… whether one breathes in the US, Canada, Mexico, or a “third world country”…

          Also is energy consumption… US is pretty high on EC/capita…

          More constraints on CO2 emissions, per capita, in the US compared to ‘third world’ countries… probably lower on CO2 emissions per energy consumption units.

          Tying greenhouse gases to third world immigrants, documented or not, is spurious, if not racist… it was not you who suggested this… others… unless ‘third world folk’ are not entitled to live…

          I wonder how many folk who regale against undocumented immigrants have the provenance to say their ancestors were “documented”… my family has been in the US since the period 1750-1870 (both sides of family)… suspect few were “documented”, except for perhaps, ship’s manifests… guess some posters can trace their “documented” lineage well beyond mine… or they may well be hypocrites…

          1. Don Shor

            Tying greenhouse gases to third world immigrants, documented or not, is spurious,

            It’s just a pointless distraction, and it’s typical of any climate change discussion. I’m sorry I fell for it here. Immigration will certainly be an issue over decades as climate change affects regions of the world in undesirable ways with respect to agriculture and famine. In fact, it was certainly part of what caused Syria to fall apart in the first place. But restricting immigration is practically a non-issue in U.S. climate policy.

          1. Don Shor

            The drought that preceded the civil war in Syria was the worst in centuries and was a factor in the migration of over a million people from rural to urban areas. That was certainly a factor in civil unrest and increased desertification in the region has been linked to climate change.

          2. Don Shor

            In fact, restoring forests, retaining and expanding irrigated agriculture, and directly fighting desertification are key things ‘we’ can do to help mitigate climate change.

        5. Ken A

          Other than someone who his a hardcore partisan and is “for” all immigration and “against” greenhouse gasses and pollution, no sane person can say that the state of California has less pollution and greenhouse gas emissions today with ~40 million people than it did back in 1950 when it had ~10 million people (same for the city of Davis with ~66K people today vs. ~4K people in 1950).

          P.S. A while back the Sierra Club was having a big fight about this topic:

          https://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/16/us/bitter-division-for-sierra-club-on-immigration.html

        6. Ken A

          The “per capita”carbon emissions have dropped as more people go solar and less people have livestock but the city of Davis still has WAY more carbon emissions than it did in 1950 (“total” emissions is what matters not “per capita”)…

    4. David Greenwald

      Jim – You seem to be missing the point of this exercise.

      Here was a key passage you may have overlooked: “that they don’t want poor people and people of color to have the same opportunities they did, ”

      The question: what will you give up, not what you will give up for someone else.

      1. Jim Hoch

        If you give poor people money they will buy an SUV and eat more meat.  How is that helping? Go to any poor neighborhood school and watch what the parents drive up in.

        Report back.

        1. Ken A

          I’m wondering if Don thinks Jim is wrong about the poor in America having more SUVs (with super big rims) and eating more meat than they do in Mexico and Central America (contributing to higher greenhouse gasses)…

          I’m pro-immigration but let’s not fool ourselves in to thinking that a family in Mexico eating rice and beans and walking has the same carbon footprint as they do when they move to America and they are all sitting in their 1992 Suburban (with “Dub Dub” rims) idling in the In ‘n Out Drive through line waiting to take home a half dozen “Double Doubles”…

          1. Don Shor

            I’m wondering if Don thinks Jim is wrong about the poor in America having more SUVs (with super big rims) and eating more meat than they do in Mexico and Central America (contributing to higher greenhouse gasses)…

            I think the comment is pointless.

        2. Jim Hoch

          “So Jim, are you “vegan” and only drive a bicycle, or better yet, just walk?”

          I walk a lot. Just had a conversation with my daughter who wanted to go to Target. I agreed provided that we walk. She balked.

          The root cause of global warming is overpopulation. Saying “lets give everyone a bigger carbon footprint” is exactly the wrong direction.  I was talking to someone the other day about this. She was talking about refugees in Somalia. She thought they wanted to live in traditional houses. I pointed out that they wanted a 4,500 square foot air conditioned house in California and a giant SUV.  Why not? Why do people choose to live in Woodland?

          The solution Don, is fewer people.

          1. Don Shor

            Of the seven regions of the world on the link I provided, 5 are at or near replacement rate on population. That has been a rapid trend over the last 2 – 3 decades as more countries have modernized and birth control becomes more readily available. Only two — the Middle East and, especially, subsaharan Africa — still have high population growth rates. A policy action that could make a big difference with respect to climate change would be to support, with funds and policy directives, programs that provide education and materials to those regions to get more women able to control their own reproductive freedom.
            So there are organizations that work on that. People can donate money to those organizations. And people can seek to get our own government to encourage, rather than discourage, groups that help with family planning everywhere — particularly in those two regions of the world.

      2. Howard P

        The question: what will you give up, not what you will give up for someone else.

        A distinction without a difference, as they say…

        So, turnabout is fair play… what are you and your family willing to give up?  You asked Jeff, so I ask you… time to “put up…”?

        Read quickly folk, pretty much sure this will be a “cleanup” on this thread…

        1. Keith O

          Great question.  Liberals are always looking for things for people to give up, usually by charging higher prices.  Sugary sodas, energy, parking spaces, etc.

          David, what are you and your family willing to give up?

        2. Howard P

          Careful, Keith… I am part of the class you seem to regale against… a damn moderate… liberal on some issues, conservative on others, and have decided that I cannot affiliate with either Republicans, or Democrats… neither “party” represents me and mine… I am more than a bit passionate on my beliefs… I reject both parties, in general…

          Polaroid was a good concept… polarization is not… you appear to like the latter… less power to you…

        3. David Greenwald

          Howard: I asked Jim and none of you answered.  And it’s not a distinction without a difference – far from it.  Jim was willing to take an action that impacts other people but not him.  That’s the opposite of a distinction without a difference.

          BTW, Howard, you made a statement somewhere that respiration is a leading cause of CO2 emissions.  That’s why looking at per capita CO2 emissions is the most important metric and looking at how to reduce that impact.  I’m not sure what you’re driving at with comments like these.

        4. David Greenwald

          “David, what are you and your family willing to give up?”

          When I see an answer from you (on any question I have posed today), you will be in a position to ask that of me.  I have a detailed answer I will share at some point.

        5. Jim Hoch

          “Jim was willing to take an action that impacts other people but not him. ” I already take lots of actions that affect me. I live in a 1200 square foot house and until a few days ago there were five of us in here. I could afford a bigger house. We have turned on the AC 2/3 times this year. Take that VCE!

          We eat primarily vegetables and tofu and I get them from the Sac farmers markets on Sunday. As I sometimes say “rich americans eat like poor chinese”.

          In this country lower SES people often have larger carbon footprints. People in Woodland likely use more energy than people in Davis.

  5. Todd Edelman

    Curious if there are any Davis-based organizations focused on global warming/climate change who are going to explicitly oppose Measure L (approval of West Davis Active Adult Community) because of its:
    * Projected impossibility of improving cycling modal share;
    * Projected likelihood of high private car-driving modal share;
    * Accepted infrastructure for natural gas, though Davis has a goal for 100% renewables not far off;
    * Inadequate financial support for efficiency-renovations in Davis homes sold by people moving to WDAAC.

  6. Ron

    Unless human population growth levels off, all other efforts are simply a way to “bide our time” (while simultaneously ensuring that life becomes more challenging for people and other animals). It’s an illogical path to follow.

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