Water levels around New York City could rise by 2 feet or more in the coming decades, and average temperatures will likely go up 4 to 7.5 degrees, according to a report released Tuesday by a panel of scientists convened by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The city must adapt to global warming or risk having to rebuild facilities after flooding, Bloomberg said in releasing the report by the New York City Panel on Climate Change.
“Planning for climate change today is less expensive than rebuilding an entire network after a catastrophe,” Bloomberg said.
“We cannot wait until after our infrastructure has been compromised to begin to plan for the effects of climate change now.”
Bloomberg released the report at a wastewater treatment plant on the Rockaway peninsula, where workers were preparing for climate change by raising equipment such as pump motors and circuit breakers from 25 feet below sea level to 14 feet above sea level.
“There is a growing recognition of the need for adaptation to climate change in urban areas, and this initiative of Mayor Bloomberg's puts New York City in the forefront of this global effort,” said Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and co-chairperson of the panel.
The report's predictions are in line with changes projected by scientists who have studied the global effects of deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, climate models predict the average temperature at the Earth's surface could increase to between 3.2 degrees and 7.2 degrees above 1990 levels by the end of this century.
The New York City report, funded by a $350,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, predicts sea levels will rise by 12 to 23 inches and possibly more by the end of the century. Accelerated ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica could mean that sea levels will rise as much as 41 to 55 inches, the report says.
“For New Yorkers across the city, a small rise in water means the loss of their home, their business or their community,” Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat who represents the Rockaway area and is a mayoral contender, said in a statement. “Commonsense steps will not only make our lives greener, but also protect the city we call home.”
The report predicts that heat waves, short periods of intense rain, droughts and coastal flooding will all become more frequent and more intense.
According to the report, New York City can expect 2.5 to 4.5 times more days per year over 90 degrees than it experienced from 1971 to 2000.
Coastal flooding that used to happen once every 10 years will occur once every one to three years, the report says.
A task force on adapting to climate change will study the report and release draft adaptation strategies later this year.