Land Use and Climate Change: Is it Time for a National Land Use Policy?


During the past few years it has become apparent that the challenge of climate change requires us to rethink fundamental aspects of the way we live. Already we have focused on the power industry, the way we fuel our cars, and the extent to which we may conserve power through green buildings and more efficient lighting. This opinion piece asks us to consider another step in the process: the development of a national land use policy to restrict sprawl and encourage more energy-efficient land use patterns. Traditional land use policy is based on Euclidean zoning that separates land uses and encourages sprawl. Land use regulation is fragmented in the hands of thousands of local governments. The American Planning Association has argued that the division of metropolitan areas into individual autonomous regulatory kingdoms defeats rational planning and leads to sprawl, traffic congestion, and environmental degradation. Once land is developed along low-density suburban patterns, reliance on mass transportation is doomed and auto dependency is guaranteed. The paper suggests that we consider development of a national land use policy that sets goals or perhaps standards and guidelines for smart growth programs nationwide, with federal funding for states that choose to abide by these prescriptions.


Land Use, Urban Sprawl, Climate Change, Smart Growth, Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook

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Ecology Law Currents

Publication Information

35 (4) Ecology Law Currents 124 (2008)

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