Dr. William Solecki

Convened by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NPCC advises the Mayor on issues related to climate change and adaptation. Made up of climate change and impacts scientists, legal, and insurance and risk management experts, the NPCC is modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Among its ongoing activities, the NPCC is working to develop climate change projections for New York City; create a set of workbooks to assist the City’s Climate Change Adaptation Task Force; and draft a technical report on the localized effects of climate change on New York City—similar to the IPCC reports on global climate change. The NPCC is chaired by Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Systems Research, and Dr. William Solecki of CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities at Hunter College. The NPCC is funded through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

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.

Related Documents:

Press release from the Mayor’s office.

Climate Risk Information Report released by the NPCC.

Click here to order your copy of the Climate Change Adaptation in New York City: Building a Risk Management Response

Executive Summary

Climate change poses a range of hazards to New York City and its infrastructure. These changes suggest a need for the City to rethink the way it operates and adapts to its evolving environment. To respond to these changes and accomplish the goals outlined in PlaNYC, the City’s comprehensive sustainability plan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, convened the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) in August 2008. The NPCC, which consists of leading climate change and impact scientists, academics, and private sector practitioners, was charged with advising the Mayor and the New York City Climate Change Adaptation Task Force (the “Task Force”) on issues related to climate change and adaptation as it relates to infrastructure. This document, one of three in a series of workbooks to be produced for the Task Force, provides climate change projections for New York City and identifies some of the potential risks to the City’s critical infrastructure posed by climate change.

Key Finding

Warmer temperatures are extremely likely in New York City and the surrounding region. Mean annual temperatures are projected by global climate models (GCMs) to increase by1:

  • 1.5 – 3 oF by the 2020s
  • 3 – 5 oF by the 2050s
  • 4 – 7.5 oF by the 2080s

There is universal agreement among the GCMs that temperatures will increase over the next century. Total annual precipitation in New York City and the surrounding region will more likely than not increase. Mean annual precipitation increases projected by GCMs are:

  • 0 – 5% by the 2020s
  • 0 – 10% by the 2050s
  • 5 – 10% by the 2080s

The GCMs are in less agreement about the direction of precipitation change, and precipitation is characterized by large inter-annual variability, making these projections more uncertain than those for temperature.
Rising sea levels are extremely likely. GCM-based projections for mean annual sea level rise in New York City are:

  • 2 – 5 inches by the 2020s
  • 7 – 12 inches by the 2050s
  • 12 – 23 inches by the 2080s

Because GCMs do not capture all of the processes which may contribute to sea level rise, an alternative method that incorporates observed and longer-term historical ice-melt rates is also included. This “rapid ice-melt” approach suggests sea level could rise by approximately 41 to 55 inches by the 2080s.

Short-duration climate hazards can pose particular threats to infrastructure. Among these extreme events:

  • Heat waves are very likely to become more frequent, intense, and longer in duration
  • Brief, intense precipitation events that can cause inland flooding are also likely to increase
  • Storm-related coastal flooding due to sea level rise is very likely to increase
  • It is more likely than not that droughts will become more severe

Infrastructure Impacts

These climate changes will have consequences for New York City’s critical infrastructure.

Temperature-related impacts may include:

  • Increased summertime strain on materials
  • Increased peak electricity loads in summer & reduced heating requirements in winter

Precipitation-related impacts may include:

  • Increased street, basement & sewer flooding
  • Reduction of water quality

Sea level rise-related impacts may include:

  • Inundation of low-lying areas & wetlands
  • Increased structural damage & impaired operations

Indicators & Monitoring

Climate change, impacts and adaptation strategies should be regularly monitored and reassessed as part of any climate change adaptation strategy.

Climate indicators to monitor include:

  • Earth’s carbon cycle
  • Sea level
  • Changes in polar ice
  • Advances in climate science

Infrastructure impacts to be monitored include:

  • Combined-sewer overflow events (CSO)
  • Flooding & associated damages
  • Climate-related power outages
  • Indirect impacts, including ecosystem changes & effects of changes in other regions

In addition to tracking climate and impacts science, advances in technology, materials science, and adaptation strategies should also be monitored. Adaptation plans should be assessed both to determine whether they are meeting their intended objectives and to discern any unforeseen consequences. For example, by monitoring trends in population, the economy, policy, operations, management and material costs, future adaptation strategies can be iteratively tailored to ensure they remain consistent with broader citywide objectives.

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