New York City, with a population fast approaching 9 million and vast cultural, historical, and financial resources, is fast approaching the danger zone for climate change. Some would say it has already arrived.
The OECD ranked New York City among the 10 cities most vulnerable to climate change in terms of its population size, location, and risk of coastal flooding. When assets are considered, the Big Apple climbs to No. 2 on that list.
Hurricane Sandy, just one of the symptoms of a warming planet, was our first dire warning.
While climate change is best known for lifting sea levels and raising temperatures, it will also make storms far more intense. As the earth heats up, more water vapor — the fuel for storms — enters the atmosphere.
It’s not just the air that will get warmer. As oceans heat up, hurricanes like Sandy that originate in the Atlantic will become more intense. For each 1.8-degree-Fahrenheit increase in sea surface temperatures, as much as 18 percent more rain will fall during a hurricane, and storm winds could get about 8% stronger.
As oceans get warmer and northern sea ice begins to melt, sea levels will rise, increasing the frequency of floods. Eventually, entire sections of New York City will be permanently submerged.
Manhattan isn’t the only part of the city at risk. Sizeable chunks of Brooklyn and Queens, with their combined 250 miles of waterfront, are at serious risk of flooding. Many of these high-risk areas are also home to some of the city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods, like Long Island City, Queens, and Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
These areas are also where many of the city’s important transit hubs are located. Parts of John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports (on opposite sides of Queens), sit just 2 to 6 feet above sea level. Storms frequently produce flood waters higher than that — Hurricane Sandy’s surge waves were 14 feet tall.
Love taking in the fresh air of the Adirondacks or the Catskills? Better enjoy them now. None of the plants or animals native to these spruce-fir forests will survive in a climate just five degrees warmer. Both forests will begin to die out as soon as 2050.
There are plans to stop the demise of America’s greatest city. They include this green buffer zone, which its designers are calling ‘The Big U.’
The plan, from the Danish Bjarke Ingels Group, would surround all of lower Manhattan with 10 miles of artificial embankments, gardens and sloping green hills. The Big U has already received nearly $350 million in federal funding; construction is set to begin along Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the next few years.