Urban Design Adapts to Climate Change
by Nicole Meyers
The ever-popular “rising sea levels, disappearing ice caps, and drowning polar bear” discourse has been the poster board narrative for environmental impacts of global warming. The Arctic’s geographic isolation and distance led to the misconception that sea-rise is only pertinent in places like the North and South Pole, or in small islands like the Maldives. In reality, sea rise occurs on every coast. This detachment from what is happening in other parts of the world feeds into the denial that New York will face a similar future– a future under water. In New York Magazine’s September issue, Andrew Rice wakes his readers up to the fact that the future is a lot closer than we think. His article “This IS New York: In the Not-So-Distant Future,” warns society that climate change is the single greatest threat to our city, and New Yorkers must acknowledge the impending ecological crisis before it’s too late. Coastlines worldwide are vulnerable. Given that Manhattan is an island, and New York City has 520 miles of coastland, it might not be long before our buildings are under water too.
A report by New York City Panel on Climate Change argues that sea level rise poses an even greater challenge for coastal New York. The report projects sea levels around New York City will rise 11 to 21 inches by the middle of the century, 18 to 39 inches by the 2080s, and up to 6 feet by 2100. Average sea levels have risen about 1.2 inches per decade in the city since 1900, or about 1.1 feet overall, according to the report. This is almost twice the average global rate of 0.5 to 0.7 inches per decade. This Risk Zone Map Here is a surging sea map that allows you to visualize what N ew York City will look like in the future and the long-term local consequences of different carbon pollution scenarios.
The effects of New York City’s sea level rise are already being felt. New York City has lost a tremendous amount of wetland area. The disastrous impacts of Hurricane Sandy were a painful wake-up call for how critical wetlands landscape are for retaining storm water and flood control. Sea level rise alone will lead to an increased frequency and intensity of coastal flooding as the century progresses. Beyond environmental impacts, sea level rise will bring social consequences as well. About 400,000 New Yorkers live within the current 100-year floodplain, which is more than any other U.S. city, including New Orleans.