Blazing summers. Flooded coastlines. Deadly storms.It's easy to look ahead to 2050 and feel powerless to change the dire predictions about our future. But experts say we are anything but powerless: that changing the way we live now could dramatically reduce the hardships that await us.
And many New Yorkers are doing just that.
Take Don Riepe. For the last several years, the Jamaica Bay guardian has been recruiting volunteers to plant marsh grass that will serve as the first line of defense to protect the coast against rising sea levels and storm surge
"The marsh reed ... can form like an excess sponge so it’s got great value in protecting the mainland, the people who live there... and the environment," Riepe said recently, as he waded through his harvest. "This is the life’s blood of the bay."
Riepe’s home is on the marsh, but he is just a few short miles from a very different project -- this one aimed not at protecting homes, but at building more efficient ones.
In Bushwick, Scott Short, the housing director at Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, recently commissioned a six-story, 28-unit building that will use only 10 percent of the energy of a standard apartment building. By using natural light, ventilation and insulation, the building saves $23,000 per year in energy bills, architect Chris Benedict explained.
What's more: it didn't cost more to build.
"With a building like this, it takes that excuse away from people and I hope it encourages people to pursue passive housing," said Short referring to buildings with a reduced ecological footprint.
While Benedict’s apartment building made its mark by conserving electricity, The Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park is making its mark by generating its own power.
While most skyscrapers that pull power from the grid, One Bryant Park is powered using its own 4.6 megawatt combined heat and power plant. To cool the building during the summer’s hottest days, the building uses an ice storage system, freezing giant blocks of ice at night when power is less in demand. Air cooled by the ice is then circulated during daylight hours.
“Making energy on site is much more efficient than getting it from a traditional power plant,” said Jordan Barowitz, director of external affairs for The Durst Organization, which owns the building.
Even city schools are looking toward energy efficiency, with a 68,000-square-foot, two-story elementary school being constructed now in Staten that will harvest as much energy on site as it uses every year, officials say.
So what can regular New Yorkers do to cub the effects of climate change? Experts say it’s not as difficult as you might think. For example, if everyone changed one traditional light bulb in their home to an energy-efficient one, it would reduce as much pollution as taking a million cars off the road.
Adjusting your thermostat make a big difference too – even just one degree cooler in winter, or one degree warmer in summer.
Recycle not just paper and bottles, but cellphones, batteries … even your wire hangers from the drycleaners. Tips from the US Environmental Protection Agency for curbing the effects of climate change can be found here:
Locals ready to get their feet wet can also volunteer with Done Riepe to replant marsh lands. They can find out how here.