ClimAID science report: New York state must prepare for climate change now

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“Devastating floods like those caused in upstate New York by the remnants of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee are among the climate change effects predicted in a new report written by 50 scientists and released Wednesday by the state’s energy research agency,” the Associated Press reported on November 16. Intended as a climate change preparedness resource for planners, policymakers, and the public, the 600-page “ClimAID” report, written by scientists from Cornell University, Columbia University, and the City University of New York, says New Yorkers should begin preparing for hotter summers, snowier winters, severe floods, and a range of other effects on the environment, communities, and human health. The report warns that, under global warming conditions, Irene-like storms of the future could put a third of New York City streets under water and flood many of the tunnels leading into Manhattan in less than an hour. This focus on the need for risk management and adaptive preparedness suggests an essential framework for considering the IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Weather Events, due to be released on Friday, November 18.

See November 17 CSW post: Text of ClimAID report, “Responding to Climate Change in New York State”

Earlier CSW posts on Climate Change Preparedness

Buffalo News, November 16:

As global warming alters ecology, economy will change, report says

ALBANY – …Climate change will radically transform New York State by 2080 in ways unimaginable today, affecting everything from the kinds of birds flying overhead to the crops farmers will be able to grow, according to a report released Wednesday.

More than 50 scientists worked three years to complete the study, which is intended to send a wake-up call to residents, urban planners, water resource managers and businesses with a simple message: New York must begin now to adapt to a warming climate over the coming decades.

"We have to realize that a lot of the things we do today, the crops we grow, how water systems are designed, are based on climate data 50 years old," said Arthur DeGaetano, one of the study's principal investigators. "But with climate change, we have to start incrementally rethinking how they might change."

DeGaetano is a researcher from Cornell University. The report was released by ClimAID, a group of researchers from a variety of disciplines from Cornell, Columbia University, the City University of New York and other institutions. "The state has the potential capacity to address many climate-related risks, thereby reducing negative impacts and taking advantage of possible opportunities," …

Climate change already is being felt in the form of warmer winters in New York over the last several decades and increasing numbers of extreme rainfall events, according to DeGaetano, the Cornell researcher, who is the director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell.

"The report says what we can start to do about it now," DeGaetano said.

The study offers a blueprint for how communities can adjust things like zoning and planning considerations when, for example, deciding whether to build new housing complexes near a flood zone or replacing aging sewer treatment facilities that are often located along rivers, the researcher said. He cautioned that not all the adaptive costs are prohibitive, nor do they all have to be met immediately.

“…It's in our planning, our policymaking, our regulations.”

Syracuse Post-Standard/Associated Press, November 16:

Scientists: New York state must prepare for climate change now

 ... “The past year was a good teachable moment in terms of the types of impacts we anticipate with climate change,” said Art DeGaetano, a climate expert from Cornell who was one of the report’s authors. “What we show in the report is that winters will tend to get wetter and summers drier. Conditions this year were textbook for that. Farmers had a tough time getting into wet fields this spring, then there were droughts. The flooding from Irene and Lee brought the classic types of impacts we project to occur in the report.” …

The study predicts average annual temperatures in New York state will rise by 4 to 9 degrees by 2080 and precipitation will rise by 5 to 15 percent, with most of it in the winter….

Among the specific regional effects predicted in the report are:

• Native brook trout and Atlantic salmon will decline, but bass will flourish in warmer waters.
• Great Lakes water levels will fall.
• Apple varieties such as McIntosh and Empire will fare poorly, but vineyards will benefit.
• Milk production will decrease.
• Coastal wetlands will be inundated and saltwater will extend farther up the Hudson River.
• Adirondack and Catskill spruce-fir forests will disappear.
• Invasive insects, weeds and other pests will increase.
• Electrical demand will increase in warm months.

The study proposes numerous steps that can be taken to adapt to the changing climate. …

“Climate change is already beginning to affect the people and resources of New York state, and these impacts are projected to grow,” the ClimAID authors wrote. “At the same time, the state has the potential capacity to address many climate-related risks, thereby reducing negative impacts and taking advantage of possible opportunities.”

Guardian (UK), November 16:

Major storms could submerge New York City in next decade

Sea-level rise due to climate change could cripple the city in Irene-like storm scenarios, new climate report claims

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent

Irene-like storms of the future would put a third of New York City streets under water and flood many of the tunnels leading into Manhattan in under an hour because of climate change, a new state government report warns Wednesday.

Sea level rise due to climate change would leave lower Manhattan dangerously exposed to flood surges during major storms, the report, which looks at the impact of climate change across the entire state of New York, warns.

"The risks and the impacts are huge," said Art deGaetano, a climate scientist at Cornell University and lead author of the ClimAID study. "Clearly areas of the city that are currently inhabited will be uninhabitable with the rising of the sea."

Factor in storm surges, and the scenario becomes even more frightening, he said. "Subway tunnels get affected, airports - both LaGuardia and Kennedy sit right at sea level - and when you are talking about the lowest areas of the city you are talking about the business districts."

The report, commisioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said the effects of sea level rise and changing weather patterns would be felt as early as the next decade.

By the mid-2020s, sea level rise around Manhattan and Long Island could be up to 10 inches, assuming the rapid melting of polar sea ice continues. By 2050, sea-rise could reach 2.5ft and more than 4.5ft by 2080 under the same conditions.

In such a scenario, many of the tunnels - subway, highway, and rail - crossing into the Bronx beneath the Harlem River, and under the East River would be flooded within the hour, the report said. Some transport systems could be out of operation for up to a month.

The report, which was two years in the making, was intended to help the New York state government take steps now to get people out of harm's way - and factor climate change into long-term planning to protect transport, water and sewage systems.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was so concerned that he went on to commission an even more detailed study of the city after receiving early briefings on the report.

That makes him an outlier among his fellow Republicans, who blocked funds for creating a new climate service in budget negotiations in Congress this week.

DeGaetano said climate change would force governments to begin rethinking infrastructure. Most of New York City's power plants, water treatment plants, and sewage systems are right at sea level. …

 

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