Column: California wildfires to Florida hurricanes, how the rich game climate change. By James M. Hamilton and Michael Bastasch
The year’s most destructive natural disasters have hit California and the East Coast. But the same trend is now unfolding across the country, as a new generation of wealthy Californians, with access to the latest technology, is leading a charge to build disaster-fighting cities. These new mega-cities could be the equivalent of the new Manhattan and Mumbai.
The New York City of the 1970s and 1980s was a thriving metropolis of more than 6 million residents. But in recent decades, Manhattan has lost two million residents, as the city’s population has fallen to a paltry 4.5 million. In Mumbai, India, an estimated 9 million people live in slums, and by some estimates, that figure will climb to 20 million by 2050.
It’s important to emphasize that mega-cities will not suddenly appear overnight in the United States. We are in the midst of a transformation of the nation’s urban landscape over the past two decades. It also matters when considering these cities’ possible impact on the climate.
It took just 25 years for Mumbai’s population to swell from 6 million to more than 24 million, a rate five times faster than in the United States. Now, if the trend continues, U.S. cities could join Mumbai as the fastest-growing mega-cities on the planet, as the population of the planet grows by more than a billion people every two years and the United States loses more than 6 million residents.
New York City and Mumbai both have a host of advantages when it comes to building resilient communities from the ground up, including a large number of scientists, engineers, business people and residents with deep technical expertise, a well-trained workforce, and a broad network of infrastructure. But the biggest advantage of these mega-cities is their residents, who can provide the leadership needed to solve our world’s most pressing problems.
An urban exodus
As of 2015, more than 10 American cities had a population of between 10 and 1 million. That’s half of the country’s total.
Many are in the West, and they include several mega-cities: Los Angeles (1.2 million), Sacramento (1 million), Portland (1 million), St. Louis (1.1 million