Land use policies fight global warming and premature deaths
Car exhaust alters climate, kills kids, and is cut by taxing land
We trim and blend six 2008 articles: (1) “A Framework for Addressing Rapid Climate Change” by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski’s Climate Change Integration Group in March; (2) “Smart Transportation Emission Reductions: Identifying Truly Optimal Energy Conservation And Emission Reduction Strategies” by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, January 29; (3) “Research on State and Local Means of Increasing Affordable Housing”, prepared for the National Association of Home Builders by Burnett, Khadduri, and Lindenmayer of Abt Associates, January 29; (4) “Major report links smog to deaths” by the Associated Press, April 22; (5) “Public Transit Creates Value but Fails to Collect” in the Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News by Chuck Metalitz on Feb 1; and (6) “POLIS supports debate on land value capture” by colleague Dave Wetzel of the London City government in an email.
by Jeffery J. Smith, April 2008Cars, stuck in the snow -- in April! Get used to it. Dumping heat into the atmosphere makes weather more energetic, stormier; global warming means the planet experiences both fevers and chills.
Polluting the air we breathe, notes the National Academy of Science, also kills more innocents than counted before. The newborn’s lungs are not yet ready to breathe the mix we’ve brewed for them. And of course their voice cannot demand respect for their right to an atmosphere in a livable condition.
The only way to undo what we’ve done is to quit using the atmosphere as a dumpsite. Since cars and trucks pollute more than boats and planes and factories and powerplants, making fewer trips and shortening trips does the most to reduce exhaust, figures a governor’s commission. People switch from driving to riding when homes, shops, offices, playgrounds, etc are closer together.
One of the most powerful lobby groups in America, the National Association of Home Builders, in a massive report cites the geonomic shift of the property tax -- off buildings, onto land -- as a sound way to facilitate affordable housing while also conserving metro land, argues Josh Vincent of the Henry George Foundation in a lengthy section.
Oregon’s official Climate Change Integration Group reported back to Governor Ted Kulongoski that humanity must act now to deal with rapid changes in climate. The single most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce vehicle miles traveled, since land transportation is the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, over a third. Doubling density where it’s low, mixing uses of land -- residential with commercial -- and better street connectivity can reduce carbon emissions, improve public health, plus save households money on getting about and getting well.
Another in the Pacific Northwest to note the connection between land use, transportation, and climate change is Canada’s British Columbia group, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, which posts our annotated bibliography on using land value around transit stops to fund mass transit. Their director, Todd Litman, wrote “Smart Transportation Emission Reductions” which did not include the tax on site value but did cite the tax on traffic congestion.
AP: Short-term exposure to smog, or ozone, is clearly linked to premature deaths, a National Academy of Sciences review concludes. The findings contradict arguments made by some White House officials. By short-term, the researchers meant even under 24 hours.
Ozone -- the yellow haze in the air is a tell-tale sign -- is already a leading cause of respiratory illnesses and especially affects the elderly and children and anyone with lung and heart disease, but they’re not the only ones to die prematurely from ozone.
JJS: Dying young is another excellent reason to quit abusing the ecosystem, besides climate change. The key is relying less on transportation, more on using land efficiently. And the way to motivate owners to put their parcels to best use is to charge and collect the rent for locations.
Two more groups have connected the dots.
Heartland: We can avoid many difficulties by taxing the value of land, exempting all buildings and other improvements. A land tax for transit is fair because transit service increases land values and those who benefit the most pay the most. To generate $400 million a year -- enough to avoid Chicago's transit "doomsday" service cuts for years to come -- would cost an average homeowner about $40 a year, which is likely to be a lot less than a sales tax increase. In Japan, private railroads provide passenger service funded, in part, by the increased value of lands the railroads own.
Wetzel: Polis is a network of European cities and regions from across Europe, which promotes, supports, and advocates innovation in local transport. They pay attention to testimony the City of London’s transport agency. Polis responded to a consultation from the European Union re Green Transport policies for Urban Areas by supporting debate on land value capture for transport finance in Europe.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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