Cliamte Change and Energy

The 20th century saw the average temperature in the New York metropolitan region increase by 2 degrees Fahrenheit . The Arctic ice cap shrank at a rate that alarms most experts in the field and scientific models indicate that this warming trend will continue in the 21st century. Even small changes in climate can alter the environmental baseline under which cities plan and operate. Cities are radical human alterations of the natural landscape, and with 50% of the world population now living in urban areas like New York City, the global urban community must analyze and adapt to the very climate change they are creating.

Climate change research generally focuses on one of two principles; adaptation—introducing coping systems and strategies in a city impacted by climate change, and mitigation—stopping the climate from changing. CISC’s projects focus on adaptation. With effective and proactive adaptation strategies in place, cities can stave off the potentially catastrophic economic and health impacts of global warming, while buying much needed time for successful mitigation strategies to be identified, tested, and implemented. The Climate Change and Energy Program Area, seeks to examine natural climate conditions, current conditions as influenced by urban living and prospects for the future.

Program Area Leader: Allan Frei, Associate Professor of Geography, Hunter College

Program Activities and Events:

New York City Panel on Climate Change

Dr. William Solecki

CISC Director Bill Solecki was appointed Co-Chair of this important panel tasked with providing the science information to policy makers and other leaders regarding future impacts of climate change on New York City. The task force, part of PlaNYC, the city’s long-term sustainability plan, is composed of city and state agencies, public authorities and companies that operate the roads, bridges, tunnels, mass transit, and the water, sewer, energy and telecommunications systems–all of them thought to be vulnerable.

To view the press release from the Mayor’s office, click here.

To view the Climate Risk Information Report released by the NPCC, please click here.

Urban Forests in Our Midst

Urban forests in our midstDid you know that there are 108 acres of open spaces hidden behind rowhouses on the Upper West Side alone? That is 13% the size of Central Park! These backyard open spaces convey a range of environmental benefits to the entire City—and yet these benefits are overlooked by the architects of public policy for NYC, environmentalists, building owners and tenants alike. This project will have significant implications for the entire City given the many neighborhoods in all five boroughs characterized by significant numbers of rowhouses with adjoining backyards.

CISC and Landmarks West! have teamed up to work on a project identifying the benefits of private green space in NYC. Much research and advocacy has gone into assessing the environmental benefits of public green space, but relatively little work has been done to promote best practices amongst private owners. This project seeks to create original research about the potential benefits as well as outreach materials to educate urbanites with green space on their property.

LandmarkWests!’s Evan Mason and Dr. Bill Solecki from CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities sat down with Brian Lehrer to talk about our environmental project “Urban Forests in Our Midst.” You can listen to the program here:

Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Sustainable Water Use in the Hudson River Valley

The primary goal of this project is to provide assistance to the Orange County (OC) Water Authority (OCWA) so that they identify as necessary to begin to include climate change in their planning process to meet their long-term water supply objectives. The specific objectives of this project include both technical—science based—and non-technical—outreach and education based components.

Although the Hudson River Valley (HRV) region receives, by global standards, a significant amount of precipitation, due to a growing population and considerable water consumption, water supplies of communities living in the HRV are vulnerable to variations in climate. If, during the twenty first century, the HRV experiences climate variations that are similar to those that occurred during the last 100 years, then communities must be prepared for at least the type of drought experienced during the 1960s, the most serious drought of the twentieth century, because evidence suggests that a drought of magnitude and persistence similar to (or even more serious than) the 1960s drought is not unusual in the long-term history of this region. In addition to variability, changes in climate that are expected in the HRV during the twenty first century will most likely alter the hydrologic cycle, resulting in significant impacts on water supply, water quality, riparian and river ecology, and agriculture, and may make local water supplies even less resilient to climatic variations. This information will be used for two primary purposes: to inform public debate, local officials, and regional planners; as well as to provide guidance and suggestions as to what the major information gaps are with regards to regional climatic monitoring and potential climate change impacts, and how those gaps can be filled.

Click here to download the final report.


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The Institute for Sustainable Cities | CUNY Hunter College
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