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New York Needs To Prepare For Severe Climate Change-Related Storms Now

Storm over New York City

New York City might not be the concrete jungle where dreams are made in the near future. At least, not if climate change has its way.

A New York state government report has warned climate change could lead to intense Irene-like storms within a couple of decades, putting a third of New York City streets under water and flooding tunnels in less than an hour.

Rising sea levels as a result of climate change would dangerously expose lower Manhattan to floods during major storms. “The risks and the impacts are huge,” said Art DeGaetano, climate scientist at Cornell University and author of the ClimAID study. “Clearly areas of the city that are currently inhabited will be uninhabitable with the rising of the sea.”

The report, issued by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said storms would also greatly affect subway tunnels, as well as LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, both sitting at sea level. The business districts are also in the lowest areas of the city, at the highest risk. These extreme weather patterns could come into play as soon as the next 10-20 years.

Hurricane Irene reaches New York

Manhattan and Long Island sea level could rise up to 10 inches, and by 2050, it could reach 2.5 feet if current conditions stay the same. Storm surges could put transportation systems out for over a month.

The report has been in the making for 2 years, as a way to help New York state government take precautions now in order to prevent danger, should extreme weather occur. It’s also a way to factor climate change into planning for water, transportation and sewage systems, three integral parts of New York City infrastructure.

According to DeGaetano, climate change will eventually force governments to begin rethinking their infrastructure plans. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has become so concerned with climate change, he commissioned another detailed study of the city.

Floods aren’t the only thing New Yorkers have to worry about, either. They could also face average temperature rises of up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century, even up by as much as 9 degrees by 2080. Warmer temperatures mean power shortages during the summer, black-outs, and risk of heat stroke for those with no air conditioning. Hotter temperatures would also impact the state’s wine and agricultural industries.

Similar warnings have been issued to the city of London as well. Do you think these warnings and reports sent to larger cities will impact how cities around the world choose to operate over the next couple of decades?

Via Guardian
Feature image CC licensed by Anthony Quintano: Storm moving over New York City
Satellite image courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: Hurricane Irene Reaches New York City

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