Observed Global Temperature Change

Everyone’s 2040 Plan Sucks

FrogThere have been a lot of posts about the Minneapolis 2040 Comp Plan, including many, many public hearings in which YIMBYs and NIMBYs stand up and fight for more housing, or less housing, or neighborhood character. Every city in the Met Council is supposed to have a 2040 plan.

Meanwhile, we are all frogs in a pot of tepid water. And some people are missing the point that we will eventually boil alive.

On October 6, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report. In it, they discuss a best-case scenario of a 1.5°C increase in global temperature. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s actually a bit more than 2.7°F.

The report compares the impacts of only heating up 1.5°C to that of 2.0°C (3.6°F) — or more.  This is a review of existing science, and not new science. But it sums up the risks and likelihoods of inaction rather starkly.

Per the report:

Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.

Hitting this figure relies on drastic reduction of CO2 emissions levels to net-zero by 2055, with extreme reduction starting ASAP.

Even at 1.5°C, the report outlines that many islands and coastlines will cease to exist as we know them today, increased weather events will destroy lives, the Arctic Ocean won’t have ice most of the year, and many ecosystems and humans will be at risk. Nearly all coral reefs will die. Wildfires and heat waves will sweep across the planet annually. Cycles of drought, flood and temperature will create food supply insecurity, including mass famine in less developed regions. All this will happen at 1.5°C, but it’s a lot worse at 2.0°C or higher. To forstall the worst suffering, the report says, requires a transformation of the world’s economy, agriculture, and culture without documented historical precedent. Even the best case scenario is considered a genocidal level of global warming.

Observed Global Temperature ChangeIn other words: Your neighborhood is going to change, whether you agree to a fourplex or not. Today’s “neighborhood character” won’t exist in 2040 as we boil. How character evolves – and how it impacts the lives of others worldwide – depends on how we address the future, today.

Most 2040 plans talk about more density, or more senior housing, and transit “corridors.” We need more than that to hold climate catastrophe at bay. The UN says “Pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems.

In other words: Upzoning is a start. A very small start. A start that is not even close to radical enough. Right now, we are on track for up to 4.0°C (7.2°F) degrees of warming, which is more than twice as much as most scientists believe is even workable without threatening most of our social and political civilization, and which will make large portions of the planet uninhabitable.

The UN says that everyone needs to be involved to make this work. There is no broad assumption of a technological leap that will support current development and energy use patterns while magically wiping away the CO2 emissions load from them. Current technology is a long way from being able to carry the load; even rapid technical improvement requires significant change in development and lifestyle patterns to make it all work.

What does this mean? Well, it means density is almost inevitable, as coastlines and islands are destroyed. Of course, because going higher than 1.5°C will cause widespread death and more than a bit of conflict as people battle for resources, perhaps some of the haves will be able to hang on. Hard to say. The UN report doesn’t go there, because it focuses on social justice, equity, and collective efforts at all levels, in ways that reflect different circumstances and capabilities, to strengthen the global response to climate change, with goals of achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty. Kind of an ultimate YIMBY stance, if you will — we are all neighbors, we are all in this together, and this is the only habitable ball of rock in space we have.

As a planet, we are currently on a trajectory that brings us north of four degrees by the end of the century. At four degrees, the global economy will shrink by 30% or more, and grain supplies by as much as 50%.
We need to stop thinking of development solely in personal terms (“me,” “my neighborhood,” “I need to run errands on my way home”) and start using bolder, broader plans, public investment and strong government action that drives density, incentivizes transit, and makes the expense of convenience much, much higher. A recent Nobel winner in economics suggests increasing carbon taxes by 5x; the UN report suggests it needs to increase at least 100x by 2030, and a lot more than that by 2100.
Single-family housing, multi-car families and sprawl are luxuries that cannot be sustained. Our 2040 plans need to hit some of the same panic buttons now being hit by the UN. Everyone needs to stop asking if politicians have “the balls” to stop the 2040 plan, and needs to ask if they have the moral courage to make it much more extreme. We need to make room for more neighbors today — and survival of life on earth tomorrow.
We have three city council terms, at most, to try to save everyone’s neighborhood from unparalleled climate disaster. How much of that time is going to be spent on fruitless public hearings, signs about bulldozers, and concerns about street parking?

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!