NEW YORK, New York, August 13, 2008 (ENS) - The low-lying city of New York - with its complex underground water and sewer systems; electric, gas, and steam production and distribution systems; telecommunication networks and other critical infrastructure - is particularly vulnerable to the rising sea levels and storm surges associated with global warming.
To secure the city's infrastructure from the effects of climate change, Mayor Michael Bloomberg Tuesday launched the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force made up of city and state agencies and private companies that operate, maintain, or control infrastructure serving this city of over 8.2 million residents - the largest city in the United States.
"We face two urgent challenges," said Mayor Bloomberg. "First, we have to shrink our carbon footprint to slow climate change. Second, we have to adapt to the environmental changes that are already beginning to take place."
More frequent and powerful storms are affecting coastal areas like that occupied by New York, which is situated on the Atlantic coast, and rising temperatures are straining the electric grid. These changes are affecting roads, bridges, and tunnels and the mass-transit network - and all existing infrastructure must be protected and strengthened, the mayor said.
Bloomberg said the city must raise critical infrastructure, like back-up generators, to higher ground in areas prone to flooding. "Changes in the way we maintain and operate our infrastructure can help secure our city," he said.
The task force will be assisted by a technical advisory committee, the newly formed New York City Panel on Climate Change, made up of experts from regional academic institutions and the legal, engineering, and insurance industries.
Bloomberg calls the effort "one of the most comprehensive and inclusive strategies ever launched to secure a city's critical infrastructure against the effects of climate change."
The Rockefeller Foundation's Climate Change Resilience program has awarded a $350,000 grant to fund the work of the Panel on Climate Change.
"The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to help New Yorkers blueprint and build a more sustainable future as a part of our $70 million commitment to strengthen community resilience to climate change," said Peter Madonia, the Rockefeller Foundation's chief operating officer.
"This New York City Panel on Climate Change will shape innovative approaches to cope with global warming's potentially devastating consequences in our hometown and model the kind of planning which can and should be applied in cities around the world," said Madonia.
"Experts at Columbia University's Earth Institute are pleased to offer scientific and technical expertise to assist the City of New York with its climate adaptation plans," said Cynthia Rosenzweig, senior research scientist and co-chair of the City Panel on Climate Change.
"It is our hope that cities in the United States and around the world will use New York City's planning process as a model to respond effectively to climate change challenges," she said.
The Climate Change Adaptation Task Force will create an inventory of existing infrastructure that may be at-risk from the effects of climate change and develop coordinated adaptation plans to secure these assets based on climate change projections specific to New York City.
The task force will draft design guidelines for new infrastructure that take into account anticipated climate change impacts and identify adaptation strategies for further study that are beyond the scope of individual stakeholders.
"We commend Mayor Bloomberg's leadership on climate change," said William Solecki, director of the Institute for Sustainable Cities at Hunter College and co-chair of the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.
The City Department of Environmental Protection first issued an adaptation plan for its assets in May 2008, and the new task force will build on their efforts.
"We look forward to building on the important work the scientific community has already done on these issues and helping New York City find specific solutions to adapt to climate change," said Solecki.
The task force was one of the 127 initiatives proposed in PlaNYC, the Bloomberg administration's long-term sustainability plan, announced on Earth Day 2007.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.