It was not so long ago that Irene nearly shut down New York City. Yet, compared to what the future holds, Irene was merely a small thunderstorm.
The report foresees the death of many fir and spruce trees in the Catskills, as well as threats to the drinking water supply. Imagine instead storms that completely inundate lower Manhattan’s entire transit system and submerge one third of city streets. Unlikely as it sounds now, this underwater world could be the future of New York City, according to a new report published by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, titled “Responding to Climate Change in New York State.”
According to the New York Times, the report’s authors say it is the most detailed study that looks at how changes brought about by a warming Earth — from rising temperatures to more precipitation and global sea level rise — will affect the economy, the ecology and even the social fabric of the state.
NYSERDA’s report concludes that sea levels are expected to rise as much as two feet before 2080, drastically increasing the city’s risk of coastal flooding and storm surges. This would expose 34 percent of the city to storm surge flooding, the area equivalent of Manhattan and Brooklyn combined.
The entire state could face significant changes at the hands of global warming, too. For example, in Western New York, decreased rainfall and rising temperatures could increase the risk of drought, resulting in widespread crop loss. Farmers all over the state face severe and crippling economic hardships, and the price of all agricultural products will increase dramatically.
The Daily News points out that city and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials say they’ve already begun to make changes, such as raising subway grates and adding stronger flood protections along the waterfront. Other changes, officials cautioned, will take years of planning and billions of dollars.