Does New York City Have A Plan To Combat Climate Change?

Coastal cities have a lot to worry about when it comes to man made climate change. New York City is no exception — and it also presents a time-sensitive problem that needs fixing since the city is a major hub for international politics and economies. What could change due to climate change? It might wreak havoc on buildings, fragile environments such as wetlands, energy grids, and infrastructure. It could also displace millions of people. Whatever we do now, it would seem that flooding is inevitable.

It’s not only those issues that concern scientists, but also increase the number of deaths due to heat stroke, natural disasters, or even ground-level ozone. These could also increase birth defects and present ongoing health risks throughout life. According to the New York Times, one obvious consequence of climate change is the worsening rat infestation plaguing the city. 

But NYC officials plan to do their part to combat this existential menace. All the way back in 2008, former Mayor Bloomberg approached a team of climate scientists and scholars who could help the city decide what needed to be done. It was called the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC).

According to the NPCC, rare weather events — most of which are extreme in nature — were becoming common, longer lasting, and approaching with more damage dealing potential. The city now has a $20 billion cash injection for OneNYC in order to fund programs that could help reduce the impacts of climate change.

Spokesperson Phil Ortiz said, “All of the city’s resiliency efforts, ranging from our ambitious coastal protection projects to the Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines, are grounded in the NPCC’s projections.” Ortiz made clear that these efforts would help shape policy moving forward.

What is the city doing right now?

NYC has a set of nonmandatory “Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines” provided for architects and engineers to study when trying to design buildings and other infrastructure aimed at resisting heat, precipitation, and flooding. 

Co-chair Cynthia Rosenweig of the NPCC said, “The resiliency design guidelines are what’s actually needed to scale up implementation. Otherwise we have a new project here, another project there, and each project would need to develop its own climate projections every single time. But the guidelines provide the nuts and bolts of the climate risk levels for all capital projects that the city undertakes.”

She added, “I have been at other events focused on architects, engineers and landscape architects, and they are very positive about what the city has done by providing these design guidelines.”

Some of the modernization has escaped notice from the public. For example, the NYC Cool Roofs program has modernized 6.7 million square feet of NYC roofing in the last decade in order to make roofs more resistant to heat. The NYC Climate Mobilization Act mandates modernized roofing for all new commercial and residential infrastructure. They don’t simply say, “you need to do this,” and expect it will be done. They’ve provided the tax incentives to boot.