THE WESTERN URBAN LANDSCAPE AND CLIMATE CHANGE.

Author:Sullivan, Edward
 
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  1. INTRODUCTION 933 II. THE BIBLICAL AGENDA: DROUGHTS, FIRES, FLOODS, PESTS, AND 936 CONTINUED IN-MIGRATION A Consumptive and Non-Consumptive Water Use Stress 936 B. Floods and Sea Level Rise 938 C. Forest Fires 939 D. Population Growth 940 E. Public Health 941 III. No CONSENSUS ON THE URBAN LANDSCAPE 941 IV. ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE IN SELECTED URBAN AREAS 945 IN THE AMERICAN WEST A. San Francisco 945 1. Transportation 946 2. Land Use 947 3. Infrastructure 949 a. Sea-Level Rise and Consequent Impacts on 949 Land Use and Infrastructure b. Water 951 c. Stormwater Runoff 951 d. Transportation 952 e. Parks and Recreation 953 f. Solid Waste and Recycling 953 4. Energy 954 B. Los Angeles 954 1. Transportation 955 2. Land Use 956 3. Infrastructure 957 a. Sea-Level Rise and Consequent Impacts on 957 Land Use and Infrastructure b. Water 958 c. Stormwater 959 d. Solid Waste 959 e. Parks and Recreation 959 f. Transportation 960 4. Energy 960 C. Phoenix 960 1. Transportation 961 2. Land Use 962 3. Infrastructure 962 a. Water 962 b. Stormwater Runoff 964 c. Solid Waste 964 4. Energy 964 D. Portland, Oregon 965 1. Transportation 966 2. Land Use 968 3. Infrastructure 970 a. Water 971 b. Stormwater: Combined Sewer Outflow Program 971 c. Public Transportation 972 d. Parks and Recreation 973 e. Solid Waste and Recycling, 973 4. Energy 974 E. Salt Lake City 974 1. Transportation 976 2. Land Use 976 3. Infrastructure 978 a. Water 978 b. Stormwater 979 c. Public Transportation 979 d. Parks and Recreation 980 e. Solid Waste and Recycling 980 4. Energy 981 F. Seattle 982 1. Transportation 983 2. Land Use 984 3. Infrastructure 984 a. Water 984 b. Stormwater 985 c. Sewers 985 d. Rail 985 e. Port Facilities 986 f. Electricity 986 g. Parks and Recreation 987 h. Emergency Services 987 i. Solid Waste and Recycling 987 4. Energy 988 V. THE NEED TO RETHINK ASSUMPTIONS 988 VI. CONCLUSION 991 A. Transportation 991 B. Land Use 992 C. Infrastructure 993 D. Energy 993 I. INTRODUCTION

    The impacts of global climate change or climate destruction (CD), both negative and positive, are rapidly manifesting themselves throughout the American West. These impacts include sea-level rise along the Pacific Coast, (1) decreased winter snow pack, (2) more frequent and longer droughts, (3) more frequent 100-year-plus flood events, (4) more intense forest fires as the fire season lengthens, (5) shifts in crop production, (6) and ecosystem changes. (7) To date, most research has focused on the negative impacts of CD on the region's non-urban landscape; less attention has been devoted to how the region's urban areas will be affected. (8) CD poses a major challenge to urban areas that are on the front line of climate change and requires multiple CD response strategies. However, the post-2017 absence of any federal climate change policy and the limited number of state initiatives, means that urban areas, even in the West, are the prime candidates to cope with CD. (9)

    Two principal strategies exist to deal with the adverse impacts of CD in urban areas: mitigation and adaptation. (10) Mitigation attempts to roll back greenhouse gas emissions to stabilize the climate. CD adaptation accepts temperature rise as inevitable and attempts to minimize damage from the worst impacts. Cities are involved in both strategies and in many actions will implement both of them. For example, the reduction of automobile use will cut greenhouse gas emissions and help lower temperatures in urban heat islands. We believe that, in the end. urban areas will have no choice but to adapt to CD because of the utter failure of the United States and the international community to roll back greenhouse gas emissions to the level necessary to stabilize the climate. (11) Adaptation will not be easy. Western cities must adapt as they face continued population growth and pressing social equity issues such as homelessness and housing affordability. Many strategies clash with those adopted by cities to cope with the transition of the West from a commodity production colony to the most urbanized region in the country, a change that accelerated after World War II. The West has both courted unlimited growth and venerated low-density suburbs and "cool" urban neighborhoods, with the result that this growth has often exposed people to the loss of life and property. Western urban-lifestyle choices have enabled and created strong legal, political, and social expectations that will spur fierce opposition to many CD adaptation strategies and resistance to climate migration as well. (12)

    The West is the most CD-sensitive region in the United States and states and their urban areas in the region, especially along the Pacific Coast, have paid considerable attention to the need to transition to a decarbonized economy. Metropolitan areas have focused on specific projected impacts such as sea-level rise or increased heat, but there have been few general discussions of how both CD mitigation and adaptation will impact the urban landscape. This article is a step toward filling this gap.

    Following this Introduction, Part II sets out the likely adverse and positive impacts of CD and how they may impact the urban landscape. Part III notes the lack of consensus as to CD response. Part IV surveys how six western metropolitan areas are adapting to CD. Four of them are on the politically "blue" Pacific Coast, Seattle, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles; the other two are in the "purple-red" West, Phoenix and the Wasatch Front from Logan to Provo, Utah. The survey reviews the climate change responses of each city through four "markers": transportation, land use, infrastructure, and energy. Part V urges policy makers to re-think their assumptions in the light of the dangers posed by CD and some of the actions taken by the cities included in this Article's survey. Finally, Part VI presents our conclusions.

  2. THE BIBLICAL AGENDA: DROUGHTS, FIRES, FLOODS, PESTS, AND CONTINUED IN-MIGRATION

    1. Consumptive and Non-Consumptive Water Use Stress

      The paradox of the urban American West is that it has thrived in a generally harsh, water-short climate. CD scenarios predict that the West's water supplies are likely to continue to shrink or become unstable in many areas. The intermountain West will be hardest hit by declining snow packs. (13) However, the wetter-warmer-less water scenario is not a reliable guide for every part of the West. Some areas will experience a wilder ride. Northern and Central California may experience more rainfall, but more extended droughts as well. (14) The Pacific Northwest will, on the whole, be less adversely impacted by CD-induced water stress. But, even green and wet Western Oregon will experience increased water stress. (15) These impacts will ultimately affect, often adversely, both rural and urban land values, and the failure of cities to adapt may accelerate declines in property values. (16)

      Increased water stress will impact all uses: the conservation of water resources, municipal and industrial uses, and even irrigated agriculture will face stress. (17) Cities have been able to accommodate population increases because residential demand is a relatively small slice of the water pie and because urban uses have long enjoyed a "super preference" for needed water supplies. (18) For example, the doctrine of prior appropriation, which all western states follow, tries to prevent the acquisition of water rights if there is no plan to put the water to beneficial use within a relatively short period of time. (19) Courts have created an exception to this anti-speculative rule and have allowed growing cities to perfect water rights for anticipated future growth. (20) Existing rights may be condemned, and cities generally have the financial resources to acquire agricultural rights without regard to the consequences of dewatering rural areas. (21) The question is whether cities can continue to use irrigated agricultural lands as municipal and industrial "reservoirs."

      Irrigated agriculture faces increased stress because "[i]n many areas, streamflow and reservoir storage effects are expected to reduce water supplies for traditional peak irrigation water demands during the summer and fall growing seasons." (22) The shrinking supply could "intensify efforts by agriculture to adopt new strategies to hang on to existing entitlements" and thus make the acquisition of new urban supplies more costly and difficult. For example, "[a]gricultural interests could abandon their efforts to block the development of a coherent U.S. food and water policy in the name of food security." (23) The United States currently has no coherent water or food policy, (24) which places the nation out-of-step with the international water community. (25)

      Aquatic ecosystems face various stresses from CD. (26) Reduced flows can increase pollution levels and threaten the survival of various fish species. (27) Since the 1960s, states have worked to improve instream flows and aquatic ecosystems through instream flow appropriations, water reserves, state wild and scenic rivers, minimum flow standards, dam removal, and other river restoration programs. (28) The constituency for these programs is predominately urban. Thus, efforts to shift water from rural to urban uses will face new legal and political constraints.

    2. Floods and Sea Level Rise

      Both wet and dry western cities will see a lot more unwanted water in built areas from floods and sea-level rise. In the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascades, "simulations project widespread increases in flooding for the twenty-first century because of the combined effects of increasing cool season precipitation and rising snow levels during storms associated with warmer temperature." (29) "Arizona's monsoon rainfall is becoming more intense even as daily average rainfall in parts of the state has decreased, according to a new study. Increasingly, extreme storms threaten the region with...

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