NYC Plans to Adapt to Climate Change

by | Jun 2, 2010

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New York City published its plans to adapt itself to a changing climate last week. The report outlines recommendations by the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) for the city government in order to prepare the city for changing climatic conditions.

The report cites climate change as a key factor in several emergency situations already facing the city, including the extreme weather that disrupted public transportation in August 2007. Rising sea levels and temperatures, both of which the report says is already happening, will continue to strain city-wide infrastructure, and will interact with other stresses such as pollution and population growth. Increasing heat and heat waves, storm surge, and inland flooding are all like to occur with greater frequency, hampering operations and damaging buildings and infrastructure.

The report recommends that climate change adaptation strategies be incorporated into the management plans of critical city infrastructure through a mechanism called Flexible Action Pathways, which will allow adaptation strategies to evolve in the future in the wake of changing conditions.

Furthermore, the report recommends developing public-private partnerships for coordinated adaptation strategies, reviewing city standards and codes with a view toward climate change, and working with the insurance industry on risk-sharing mechanisms.

Recommendations for action

• 1. Adopt a risk-based approach to develop Flexible Adaptation Pathways, which includes regular reviews of the city’s adaptation program;

• 2. Create a mandate for an ongoing body of experts that provides advice for the City of New York. Areas that could be addressed by experts in the future include regular updates to climate change projections, improved mapping and geographic data, and periodic assessments of climate change impacts and adaptation for New York City to inform a broad spectrum of climate change adaptation policies and programs;

• 3. Establish a climate change monitoring program to track and analyze key climate change factors, impacts and adaptation and evolving-knowledge indicators in New York City, as well as to study relevant advances in research on related topics. This involves creating a network of monitoring systems and organizations and a region-wide indicator database for analysis;

• 4. Include multiple layers of government and a wide range of public and private stakeholder experts to build buy-in and crucial partnerships for coordinated adaptation strategies. Take account of the private sector in these interactions;

• 5. Conduct a review of standards and codes, to evaluate their revision to meet climate challenges, or the development of new codes and regulations that increase the city’s resilience to climate change. Develop design standards, specifications, and regulations that take climate change into account, and hence are prospective in nature rather than retrospective. New York City should work with FEMA and NOAA to update the FIRMs and SLOSH maps to include climate change projections;

• 6. Work with the insurance industry to facilitate the use of risk-sharing mechanisms to address climate change impacts;

• 7. Focus on strategies for responding to incremental changes (e.g., annual temperature and precipitation changes) as well as low probability, high impact events (e.g., extreme coastal flooding exacerbated by sea level rise); and

• 8. Pay particular attention to early win–win adaptation strategies—such as those that have near-term benefits or meet multiple goals (greenhouse gas mitigation, emergency planning, etc.).
This is the first report issued by the NPCC, which was created in 2008 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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