A new report released by the New York City Panel on Climate Change anticipates an alarming citywide rise in average temperatures, precipitation and sea levels. According to NASA, these changes will result in “increasing risks for the people, economy and infrastructure of New York City.” This problem is compounded by steadily increasing greenhouse emissions, trapping more of the sun’s heat. While New York City officials claim to be working to reduce emissions and protect neighborhoods, more must be done if these worrisome changes are to be prevented.
The report details how drastic the impending weather changes will become. Annual precipitation is expected to increase 4 to 11 percent by 2050, suggesting not only more everyday rain in future years but also the potential for more powerful storms. Even more alarming is the rapid rise of sea levels — an expected increase of 11 to 21 inches by 2050, which will greatly increase the risk of damaging floods. Coupled with the more extreme weather that results from global warming, city-crippling storms like Hurricane Sandy would become more frequent and more destructive.
Since 2007, New York City has tried to address concerns about the city’s future, including climate change and an aging infrastructure, through PlaNYC. The city planned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, but is now scheduled to reach this goal by 2017. While it will take a global effort to mitigate the effects of climate change, these efforts are commendable. In addition, the city is taking steps to prepare for the next natural disaster after Hurricane Sandy, which temporarily raised sea levels nearly 14 feet, killed 43 New Yorkers and caused millions of dollars in damage. The city is currently working to build floodwalls and other protective measures above the hundred-year flood elevation predictions.
In a report addressing the plans to restore New York City post-Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote, “New York City will not be ‘climate-change proof’ — an impossible goal — but it will be far safer and more resilient than it is today.” Comments like this highlight the need for continued and improving global climate initiatives and activism. The People’s Climate March in September 2014 marked the largest climate change march in history, drawing a staggering 311,000 people. The Climate Group is already gearing up for Climate Week NYC, which is scheduled for September 21-27 2015 to coincide with a new U.N. global climate agreement that aims to be in place by the end of this year. On an even more local level, NYU offers myriad clubs and organizations for those interested in environmental issues. Climate change continues to be one of this generation’s defining causes, and we must continue to fight for improvement.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 19 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]