A critical examination by the New York Times of the complex challenges facing the city’s planning for the disruptive impacts of sea level rise and storm flooding suggests both the urgency of adaptive preparedness and its daunting limitations.
New York Times, September 11: New York Is Lagging as Seas and Risks Rise, Critics Warn
With a 520-mile-long coast lined largely by teeming roads and fragile infrastructure, New York City is gingerly facing up to the intertwined threats posed by rising seas and ever-more-severe storm flooding. …
But even as city officials earn high marks for environmental awareness, critics say New York is moving too slowly to address the potential for flooding that could paralyze transportation, cripple the low-lying financial district and temporarily drive hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. …
“It’s a million small changes that need to happen,” said Adam Freed, until August the deputy director of the city’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. “Everything you do has to be a calculation of the risks and benefits and costs you face.”
And in any case, Mr. Freed said, “you can’t make a climate-proof city.”
So city officials are pursuing a so-called resilience strategy that calls for strengthening the city’s ability to weather the effects of serious flooding and recover from it. …
Read the entire article.
Global warming contrarian Senators gave the April 19 hearing, held by the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, a wide berth, allowing an all-too-rare uninterrupted meaningful discussion between expert witnesses and elected officials. Thanks to Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota), the hearing also confronted the need to address climate change as the underlying cause of rising sea levels.
Witnesses included NASA Chief Scientist Dr. Waleed Abdalati; Dr. Ben Strauss, Director of the Program on Sea Level Rise for Climate Central; Dr. Anthony Janetos, Director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute; Mr. Adam Freed, Deputy Director for the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, New York, NY; and finally, Dr. Leonard Berry, Director of Florida Atlantic University’s Florida Center for Environmental Studies.
A report from Oak Ridge National Laboratory warns that urban areas in the U.S.”are vulnerable to extreme weather events that will become more intense, frequent, and/or longer-lasting with climate change.” The authors say that the “true consequences of impacts and disruptions” associated with those events “involve not only the costs associated with the clean-up, repair, and/or replacement of affected infrastructures but also economic, social, and environmental effects as supply chains are disrupted, economic activities are suspended, and/or social well-being is threatened.”
“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 [in November 2011] 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 intoManhattanin less than an hour.
“If there is one thing we learned from Hurricane Irene,” Dr. Rosenzweig said referring to the tropical storm that pummeled the state this past summer, “we have a lot more we could be doing to prepare.” The ClimAID report, the New York Times reports its authors as saying, “is the most detailed study that looks at how changes brought about by a warming Earth – from rising temperatures to more precipitation and global sea level rise – will affect the economy, the ecology and even the social fabric of the state.”