This week, President Trump officially announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris accord, an agreement made by leaders from nearly 200 countries around the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For the U.S., this meant a pledge to reach a 26 to 28 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025.
Though Trump said he would “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or a really entirely new transaction [sic] on terms that are fair to the United States,” he offered nothing further on what these talks might look like.
The overarching goal of the Paris accord is to prevent global average temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — a target that would help to curb the effects of climate change. This includes dramatic changes in weather patterns, increased likelihood of future global food and water crises and a drastic rise in sea levels.
For New York City, the latter of those effects is most concerning, particularly since in 2012, Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the havoc nature can wreak. According to current projections, sea levels could rise 30 inches by 2050 and at least six feet by the year 2100.
As a result, the city’s 100-year floodplain — areas that have a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year — could grow to 72 square miles, up from 50 square miles today.
Sandy caused flooding in more than 88,000 buildings in the city. Private landlords suffered more than $8.5 billion in property damage, while damages sustained by the local government came out to roughly $4.5 billion.
Today, at least 71,500 buildings valued at more than $100 billion stand in high-risk flood zones. Some of the city’s biggest upcoming projects fall in current or future flood zones, including Hudson Yards, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the World Trade Center complex.
In light of this, The Real Deal spoke to a number of scientists, academics, industry-insiders and city workers to break down the challenges New York faces and what’s being done to address them.
“Many people say ‘what’s the big deal, six feet?’” said Klaus Jacob, a geophysicist who worked on the New York City Panel for Climate Change. “Well, if you start off with six feet higher sea-level and then put storms on top of it, you don’t need a big Sandy to flood the subways.”
Though Jacob is more alarmist than most, the consensus is that action needs to be taken sooner rather than later. Chris Ward, chief executive of the Metro New York unit of AECOM, pointed out that every study on the effects climate change describes a shorter time-frame than the last.
“Sandy was a wake-up call, but I think we’re falling asleep again,” said Ward. “There are going to have to be solutions that come out of the local economy, out of the political will to reimagine the city’s edge — because it will not stay the same. It will change.”
Though some developers are taking steps to prepare for future, questions remain as to the efficiency of measures, such as raising the second floor above projected water levels. Beyond this, there are concerns over the city’s aging infrastructure and the resiliency of older buildings that may eventually be facing literal submersion.
As Jim Crispino, president and design principal of architecture firm Francis Cauffman, told TRD last year: “You can design your apartment building for a 500-year storm, but if that storm basically wipes out the city, and the power grid, the telephone grid and everything else, what’s the point?”
To hear the views of all those above and others, including Daniel Zarrilli, who heads the city’s Climate Policy and Program and NYU professor of urban planning Rae Zimmerman, watch the video above.
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