Dear New Yorkers

September 27, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Dear New York readers. Are you worried about climate change? Wondering if your wonderfully cosmopolitan city will shimmer in the landscape as hotter weather breathes down on it? You’d better be – basically you’ll be toast. Just in case you missed it, your Mayor Bloomberg (sounds like a smart dude) commissioned a report entitled Climate Risk Information: New York City Panel on Climate Change. You can download it here (scroll down). I’ve been researching into climate change, particularly in cities and so I came across it.

I’ll save you the trouble of reading all 74 pages and give you the bad news:

  • NYC has a 570-mile coastline and 8.5 million people live only about 10 feet above sea level.
  • NYC average temperature will rise 1.5-3 °F by the 2020s; 3- 5 °F by the 2050s; and 4- 7.5 °F by the 2080s.  Heat waves will become frequent, more devastating and last longer – cities retain heat, much more so than surrounding areas.
  • you will get milder temperatures and less snowfall but….a third of the days during summer will above 90 degrees.
  • rising sea levels will happen (>95% probability of occurrence). Maybe not enough to send your Statue of Liberty underwater but you’ll see 2-5 inches by the 2020s; 7-12 inches by the 2050s; and 12-23 inches by the 2080s.  If you include ice-melt, then the sea level could rise by approximately 41-55 inches by the 2080s. Check your home insurance policy now to see if you’re covered for water damage! But rising sea levels will lead to coastal flooding; increased street, basement & sewer flooding; structural damage; issues with water quality; and encroachment of saltwater on freshwater sources and ecosystems. The report mentioned an increase of salt front up the Hudson and Delaware Rivers, leading to reduced supply of drinking water – that would freak me out. Mind you, a wall of water flooding Wall St and getting rid of greedy banking dudes is not a bad idea.
  • a sea level rise of only only a foot and a half  — a realistic prediction for 2050 — would see a storm as severe as Katrina requiring New York City to evacuate as many as 3 million people – can you imagine the chaos.
  • droughts will become more severe, especially towards end of 21st Century.
  • the strain on the power grid during the summer months of heat will cause it to, well…possibly fall over.

The report’s conclusion is stark – if humans continue on their wayward path of greenhouse gas emissions and if the polar ice is indeed melting faster than predicted causing a sea level rise of six inches or more – most of NYC will be under water. And I sense that the report is saying that NYC needs to prepare for the inevitable changes that climate change will bring – it’s about adaptation and mitigation. The 1995 Chicago heat wave knocked off around 600 people in five days so the health and human life implications of having a third of summer days above 90 degrees is staggering.

But what can be done to prepare? I checked out some engineering reports and blogs to find out.

  • don’t build on the waterfront
  • ensure high rise apartment buildings can withstand fierce storms
  • a lot of infrastructure will need to be elevated – so for example, a new waterfront power generating station on the East River has been built to withstand a 4-foot sea level rise
  • solid barriers across the entrance to New York harbour might need to be built. They can be opened for shipping traffic and closed during vicious storms.
  • introduce congestion tax (like London) to reduce the flow of traffic within the city itself.
  • plant a whole heap of trees to help absorb carbon dioxide.

I found a great site – Climate Change Information Resources – which outlines what is being done in the New York metropolitan region to adapt and mitigate. For those of us not in New York, there’s a site I came across called City Based Climate Action Plans, which offers plans from North and South American, Asian, European and African cities. Mmmmm…..I can see Melbourne’s plan but where is Sydney?

Well, New Yorkers, you are not alone. Sydney of course might just be the world’s major climate change catastrophe about to happen. The canary in the coal mine. A CSIRO scientist is saying you don’t want to be living here in 2060 because basically Sydney will be toxic and suffering from dust storms. Hang on!! Sydney was hit with an unprecedented, apocalyptic-looking dust storm just this week. International readers, here’s what Sydney looked like on Wednesday September 23, 2009, covered by a blanket of eerie orange red dust:

Another (smaller one) hit us on Saturday September 26. Is it related to climate change? One source is saying yep, possibly. Mmmmm…another reason for leaving Australia.

Image credit: New York Post and National Post.

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Entry filed under: Australia, Climate Change, Education and Awareness, Useful resources. Tags: , , , , , .

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