Thursday, February 28, 2013

Climate Change Adaptation: Places vs. People

Since people and cattle can migrate, if climate change causes increased drought risk and this injures Plainview Texas, then activity will migrate away to a safer, higher quality of life place.  As I discuss at length in Climatopolis, migration is an insurance strategy against placed based risk.  It creates incentives for areas to compete to climate proof themselves to attract resources.   The net effect of this spatial competition is that it will be easier for us to adapt to climate change than pessimists claim.

Here is a quote from the NY Times article cited above;
"Now those families have been fractured as some relatives stay in Plainview and others leave. Dozens of former plant workers have already moved, finding new jobs with the plant’s owner, Cargill, or other companies outside Plainview or outside the state, many pulling their children out of the town’s 12 public schools. When workers receive their last paychecks in three weeks, the question is whether they will stick around. And then, the more existential question, can the town survive without those who leave?"
Yes, shocks cause short run adjustment costs.  The NY Times is saying that there was place based social capital that has been dissolved as people leave the community.  There is truth to this statement but can the NY Times place a value on "town survival"?  Was Plainview such a great town?  This is similar to the exercise that environmental economists do when they conduct a contingent valuation study to price the existence value of some environmental asset such as the Grand Canyon.

The NY Times has a very pessimistic view of people's ability to change and adapt.  This newspaper appears to be saying that like was great in Plainview and that climate change ruined the Garden of Eden.  Was that true?  What evidence could be collected to substantiate this claim?