Liz Koslov, assistant professor of urban planning, spoke with Curbed New York about the tense debate over how to protect New York City’s 578 miles of shoreline from the effects of climate change. Scientists forecast that lower Manhattan will see about six feet of sea-level rise in the next 80 years, triggering regular flooding and intensive storm surges. Koslov spoke about the competing impulses New Yorkers felt after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, with some pushing to redevelop valuable waterfront properties as others opted for “managed retreat” — relocating away from the perennially threatened coasts. Koslov, who is working on a book about Staten Island communities that rejected the rebuilding narrative, said managed retreat has won grassroots support but raises concerns including the impact of lost property taxes on local governments. She urged civic leaders to flesh out a vision for a well-planned “just retreat,” which can be “potentially empowering and a force for reconstructing communities and making the waterfront public again.”
Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, wrote an article for The Nation about California’s raging wildfires, the deadly stakes of global warming and a key aspect of the crisis that has not captured headlines: “Yes, climate change intensifies the fires — but the ways in which we plan and develop our cities makes them even more destructive,” Goh argued. Private homeownership, a key part of the American Dream for generations, is an ideal that has blinded us to safer and more sustainable priorities, she wrote. She called for new urban designs that protect whole communities, including their most vulnerable members, rather than individual lots. “Given the scope and scale of the climate crisis, it is shocking that we are being presented with so few serious, comprehensive alternatives for how to live,” Goh wrote. “We need another kind of escape route — away from our ideologies of ownership and property, and toward more collective, healthy and just cities.”
PBS NewsHour took an in-depth look at Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park’s research linking extreme heat and students’ ability to learn. Every 1-degree-Fahrenheit increase in average outdoor temperature over a school year reduces student learning by 1 percent, a team of researchers led by Park found. The team’s analysis of weather data, test scores for 10 million students, and access to air conditioning in classrooms across the country point to a “Dixie divide”: In hotter counties in Florida, Texas and other Southern states, test scores were lower than those in the North, even after controlling for factors such as family income, a county’s economic status or local pollution. “The causal effect of any given 90-degree day was much larger for lower-income students and racial minorities,” added Park, associate director of economic research for the Luskin Center for Innovation. The study puts a spotlight on the nuanced ways that developed nations will be influenced by global warming.
Liz Koslov, assistant professor of urban planning, spoke with the New York Times about a new study on “managed retreat” as an option for communities threatened by climate change. The study, published in the journal Science, found that choosing to relocate rather than rebuild can create new opportunities for communities damaged or threatened by climate disaster. Strategic, orderly and equitable relocation plans should be one of several options available to these communities, the researchers said. They added that regularly updated climate hazard maps should be provided to citizens so that they can make informed choices. “I’m so glad that these kinds of pieces are getting written,” said Koslov, noting that the debate over managed retreat is “inevitably thorny and conflictual.” She added that decisions about whether retreat is the best option should factor in social, economic and cultural considerations, not just physical geography.
Extreme heat and a lack of air conditioning in classrooms contribute to the nation’s racial education achievement gap, according to research by R. Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy. His study, forthcoming in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, is the first peer-reviewed paper to put dollar figures on the costs and social benefits of air conditioning in schools. Using data from more than 10 million middle- and high-school students across the United States, Park and his colleagues found that students who experience more hot days during the school year perform worse on standardized exams. Up to 40 percent of U.S. schools may not be fully air conditioned. Although black and Hispanic students overwhelmingly reside in hotter locations than white students, they are 9 percent less likely to have school air conditioning, the researchers found. In hot places such as Houston and Atlanta, each additional year of sufficient school air conditioning could boost collective future earnings by up to $2 million in any given high school of 1,000 students, the study found. Park, associate director of economic research for the Luskin Center for Innovation, advocates for air conditioning powered by clean energy that does not contribute to climate change. “We must recognize that adapting to climate change is a matter of racial and economic justice, especially in schools,” Park wrote in a USA Today op-ed. Keeping students cool could be a cost-effective way to boost climate resilience, promote learning and economic mobility, and narrow the gap between our nation’s haves and have-nots.”
Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences, spoke with Marketplace about the impact of climate change on economic productivity. The International Labor Organization predicts that heat stress linked to global warming could drain more than $2 trillion from the world’s gross domestic product. In hot weather, people work more slowly, need more breaks and make errors, studies have found. “If you work outdoors, it’s much harder to protect yourself from either the productivity or the health impacts from extreme heat,” said Park, who has conducted research showing that student test scores decline in hot weather. The effect of rising global temperatures on cognitive development is particularly acute in low-income areas where air conditioning is not available, Park has found.
In a recent CityLab article, UCLA Luskin’s Kian Goh commented on the Indonesian president’s approval of a plan to relocate the nation’s capital. The current capital of Jakarta is overcrowded and sinking by a few inches per year as a result of excessive underwater pumping. “Only part of this [relocation plan] is environmental,” explained Goh, assistant professor of urban planning. She stressed the economic and political factors at play, arguing that “a move to literally reposition the capital may have to do with reframing the center of power in the country itself.” Even if the president is successful in moving the capital, the government will still need to deal with the sinking land and rising seas in Jakarta. Goh predicts that Jakarta will remain the center of economic activity in Indonesia regardless of whether the capital is moved, concluding that “the people will still be there, and the problems they face will still be there.”
Participants, from left, included Urban Planning student Mara Braciszewski, District 8 Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and Public Policy students Michael Jung and Jonathan Rogers. Photo by Stan Paul
Climate change — and what Los Angeles leaders and planners can do about it — was the topic of this year’s UCLA Luskin Day at City Hall held Feb. 15, 2019. Now in its 15th year, the event sees UCLA Luskin Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Public Policy students traveling to the iconic City Hall to discuss and debate a current policy issue with policymakers, officials from government agencies and community leaders. This year’s topic, “How Can Planning Combat Climate Change?” came from Councilmember Paul Koretz of District 5. Colleen Callahan MA UP ’10, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI), served as program adviser for group of 18 students. Koretz wanted “outside-the-box ideas for addressing climate change through planning and policy solutions,” Callahan said, “and how to leverage what the city is already doing and build on new opportunities.” First-year MPP student Noreen Ahmed said, “I thought it was really valuable because the people we interviewed went straight into talking about what the issues were, what they cared about, how climate change is involved in what they are doing.” Ahmed also had the opportunity to interview Los Angeles city planners. Koretz will receive a written memorandum of findings and policy recommendations from the students, according to organizer VC Powe, executive director of external programs and career services. “What happens here in Los Angeles doesn’t stay in Los Angeles,” Koretz told the visiting group. “We are one of the most watched cities in the world. We take action and it spreads statewide — sometimes nationally, sometimes globally. We hope that what we do here in Los Angeles can literally help save the world in terms of dealing with climate change.” The annual trip is co-sponsored by UCLA’s Office of Government and Community Relations. —Stan Paul
View photos from the day on Flickr.