New York City Climate Change Adaptation Plan Way of Future

Statement by Rachel Cleetus, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jun 11, 2013

WASHINGTON (June 11, 2013) – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today will share the city’s plan for adapting to climate change – a move the Union of Concerned Scientists called “the way of the future.” Without support from Congress, cities are forced to take steps on their own to protect themselves from the impacts of climate change.

Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, a climate economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“New York City is at the forefront of this work. The city has a team of people working on this issue and has dedicated time and energy to determine what needs to be done to minimize its risks. For example, they have carefully mapped the city’s flooding risk using the latest science on sea level rise projections and exposure to storm surge.

“Scores of smaller municipalities, especially those along coasts dealing with sea level rise and worsening storm surge, are still trying to assess their risks and are struggling to figure out what to do to adapt.

“In April, the Union of Concerned Scientists convened a roundtable in New York City of county and city officials from up and down the East Coast to share best practices for protecting their coastal communities. New York City officials were clearly attuned to the problem. But no matter where you live, solutions are neither cheap nor easy. Protecting residents, their homes, and critical infrastructure, like energy, stormwater, and mass transit systems, requires good long-term planning, in addition to emergency preparedness. 

“Some very small towns, with limited tax bases, were walloped by Sandy. Congress should enact a nationwide plan to help all cities adapt, especially those with limited resources. Critical to these adaptation efforts is locally relevant scientific information that would help communities understand their risks and weigh their adaptation options. At the roundtable, just about all the municipalities present voiced a need for this information.

“Congress should authorize and provide funds for FEMA to update its flood maps to take into account the latest science on sea level rise projections, so communities can plan accordingly. Flood zones are changing. When New York City conducted its own assessment it learned that 800,000 people will live in the 100-year flood plain by mid-century – twice the number of people that the new FEMA map indicates will reside there.

“Congress also must address the root cause of climate change: an excess of carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels and cutting down tropical forests. The more carbon that accumulates, the more temperatures will increase and the worse future impacts will be. We have to take steps to slow the pace and magnitude of sea level rise to help lessen the future costs for coastal cities.”

Read UCS’ report on what the science tells us about why sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate, especially along the Gulf and East coasts of the U.S.

Download all or parts of UCS’ sea level rise infographic.