Alex Hall’s Work on Climate Change and Los Angeles

My UCLA colleague Alex Hall has developed a model for predicting future climate conditions across Los Angeles areas such as Venice vs. Pasadena.   Take a look at Tables 2 and 3 of this report.   As an economist, I’d like to make a point for lawyers to think about.

Take a look at Table 3 and note that Professor Hall predicts very few extra 95 F degree days in Venice and Santa Monica relative to other parts of Los Angeles.  This suggests that the land zoning codes in areas close to the ocean need to be changed to encourage multi-family housing.  But, as I documented in my 2011 paper, liberal cities issue fewer housing permits.   How can these cool cities filled with zoning for single family homes be nudged to reconsider high density zoning?  If this zoning law could be changed, then the free market would quickly respond and adaptation would be easy.  As I argue in 2010 Climatoplis book, the demand for a subway would soar as Santa Monica becomes Manhattan. To my surprise, many people fear re-imagining Los Angeles.   I didn’t know that LA is already perfect!  My big point here is that Alex Hall’s information is useful for thinking about the demand for living in different neighborhoods and how this will change over time.  Supply will follow demand unless laws block such trades.    Environmental lawyers should be working with real estate developers to devise ways to help our cities grow in “climate safe” zones within their boundaries. The Hall work shows that such areas will continue to exist in 2050.    The key to adapting to climate change is to unleash capitalism to find solutions for the problems we will face.  One important role for the law is to anticipate which pieces of our current legal code will impede free market forces and thus society’s ability to relocate to safer, more pleasant areas.