More Sandys Ahead?

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Floods like this one during Hurricane Sandy could become more common
according to a recent study on the effect of climate change in New York City.

Report Says Stronger Storms, More Flooding Possible In The Future

BY JORDAN GIBBONS
Staff Writer

The flooding that the City experienced after Superstorm Sandy could become a regular occurrence, according to the latest climate change report, but City Hall believes it has a resiliency plan in place to mitigate the projected effects.

The “Building the Knowledge Base for Climate Resiliency: New York City Panel on Climate Change 2015 Report” projected that by the 2050s, heat waves and heavy downpours are very likely to become more frequent, more intense and longer in duration. Coastal flooding is also likely to increase in frequency, extent and height as a result of increased sea level.

Projections for sea level rise in New York City are 11 to 21 inches by the 2050s, 18 to 39 inches by the 2080s and could rise as high as six feet by 2100.

As early as the 2020s, the middle range of projections for sea level rise is four to eight inches and the high estimate is 11 inches.

Queens is the Borough with the most land area at risk of future coastal flooding due to sea level rise, followed by Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx and Manhattan.

Daniel Bader, from the Earth Institute at Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research and project manager of the NPCC, said that the report shows that the risks are real and the projections show an increasing threat.

“Just an increase in sea level rise alone, increases coastal flooding,” he said. “In Southern Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island, these areas are experiencing flooding now.”

Bader added that while residents in the middle of the Borough may not experience flooding in their neighborhoods, there could be indirect impacts from power stations and transportation yards flooding in the southern part of the Borough.

The City has experienced an average of 1.2 inches of sea level rise per decade since 1900, which is nearly twice the global rate of .5 to .7 inches per decade. Bader said this is due to local changes in land demographics and the currents of the Atlantic Ocean along the east coast.

14 Climate change graphicWhen Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the findings of the report last month, he said that it highlights the urgency of mitigating the City’s contributions to climate change.

“The task at hand is daunting – and that is why we’re making an unprecedented commitment, with a sweeping plan to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050 and a comprehensive, multi-layered resiliency plan that is already making neighborhoods safer,” he said.

The City has implemented short-term measures to reduce risk such as 10,500 feet of bulkhead repairs, $1 billion in resiliency investments being made by ConEd to harden critical assets like substations and other critical distribution equipment and reforms to Federal Emergency Management Agency’s national flood insurance program.

Other long-term measures are being advanced, including investment in the next phase of coastal protection in the Rockaways and the communities surrounding Jamaica Bay, dunes and other coastal protection in Breezy Point and natural infrastructure resiliency projects in Jamaica Bay.

NPCC Co-Chair Bill Solecki, professor of geography at Hunter College, said that the report provides an opportunity for the City to define itself at the forefront of climate action among the world’s cities.

“The NPCC report highlights the vulnerabilities and opportunities for climate resilience of the City’s infrastructure systems and neighborhoods,” Solecki said. “While the impacts of climate change will be uneven, the conditions for a flexible and robust adaptation strategy are present.”

The Mayor’s commitment to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 starts with his 10-year green buildings plan, “One City: Built to Last,” which is planned to retrofit public and private buildings, while creating green jobs and generating operational savings.

Daniel Zarrilli, director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said that it is critically important that the City continues to use the latest science to support policy to make resiliency investments across the five boroughs.

“Adapting the City for the risks of climate change is one of the great challenges of our time,” he said. “This report… advances the science of climate resiliency and highlights the risks the City faces from multiple climate impacts, making it clear that we must continue to build a stronger, more resilient New York.”

Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400, Ext. 123, jgibbons@queenspress.com or @jgibbons2.

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