California’s Anti-Green Land-Use Policies Increase Global Warming

Randall G. Holcombe – March 28, 2019

Much of California enjoys year-round pleasant weather, without the harsh winters of the midwest and northeast, and without the heat and humidity of the deep south. One result is that California homes use less heat and air conditioning than homes in other parts of the country.

Harvard economist Edward Glaeser says that a household in San Francisco has a carbon footprint 60 percent smaller than a similar household in Memphis.

Meanwhile, California has the nation’s most restrictive land-use policies, which prevent new housing from being built, keep housing prices high, and prevent people from moving to California.

In 2016, California had the second highest out-migration among the states (second to New Jersey). The most common destinations of California out-migrants were Texas, Nevada, and Washington. The state with the highest net in-migration was Florida.

While at first glance California’s stringent land-use policies that keep people from moving to the state might appear environmentally friendly, the opposite is true. People have to live somewhere, and when California’s land-use policies keep them from moving to California, they end up living in states that give them a much higher carbon footprint.

Every retiree who ends up in Florida instead of California raises the nation’s carbon footprint. Every worker who ends up in Texas, Nevada, or Washington, rather than in California, raises the nation’s carbon footprint.

If Californians were really serious about mitigating global warming, their policies would be designed to encourage people to move to their state, where people’s carbon footprints are naturally lower because of the favorable climate. Instead, California has an anti-green environmental agenda that pushes people to live in places with higher carbon footprints.

Californians often act as if their state is environmentally friendly, but its land-use policies that push people into states where people have higher carbon footprints add more to global carbon emissions than the policies of any other state.

This article was reprinted from the Independent Institute. Randall G. Holcombe is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas.

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