Readings — From the January 2013 issue

Empire Falls

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From Responding to Climate Change in New York State, a November 2011 report prepared for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns due to global warming are believed to have increased the risk of flooding in parts of the state, which was hit by Hurricane Sandy in October.

Sea-level-rise projections of five, twelve, and twenty-three inches at Manhattan’s Battery for the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s would result in four, sixteen, and 136 moderate flooding events each year, respectively. Under a rapid ice-melt scenario, New York State could experience between 200 and 275 moderate flooding events each year by 2080.

Many wastewater-treatment plants are located in floodplains, since this often coincides with a topographic low point and sewage can be conveyed to the plant by gravity. Raising the facility by several feet may prevent severe inundation.

Severe water shortages in western states, which are likely to become worse with climate change, may shift populations to eastern states, including New York. If so, New York could experience new population and economic growth with an associated increased demand for water.

Upland areas may experience gentrification. Retreat from the southern coast of Long Island, for example, may displace households, increase housing demand, and push up property values, a process that may indirectly burden the low-income population.

In 2007, dairy products were ranked as the top agricultural commodity in New York State, representing more than half of the state’s total farm receipts. As average temperatures increase, milk output is likely to decrease, in particular among high-producing herds with substantially greater sensitivity to heat stress. By the 2050s, heat stress on cows is predicted to generate notable losses unless cooling systems are in place.

Park vegetation will potentially require more water, fertilizer, and pesticides. The increased costs of maintenance could exacerbate differences in quality of park vegetation between wealthy and non-wealthy areas.

Ski operations that are smaller and less well capitalized or more southerly and at lower altitude may have more difficulty keeping up with increasing demands on snowmaking capacity. Larger establishments are more likely to be able to afford measures for spreading risk, such as taking advantage of new markets for weather derivatives.

Apples may be particularly vulnerable to climate change. Although climate warming will provide some opportunities to grow longer-season varieties (Fuji, Granny Smith), it may also mean that some of the state’s cool-season signature varieties (McIntosh and Empire) will no longer be commercially viable.

Very large bridges tend to sag during extreme heat. Sea levels will rise, and modern ships often stack containers to use as much clearance as is available, so new height limitations may have to be imposed.

Airports located in coastal areas at low elevation (e.g., LaGuardia, Newark, JFK) are all vulnerable to coastal storm-surge flooding amplified over time by sea-level rise. Existing flood-protection levees may have to be raised, to the extent compatible with the clearance height required for takeoffs and landings.

Some runways may need to be lengthened, since hotter air provides less lift and hence requires higher speeds for safe takeoff and landing.

The New York State Department of Health should consider updating and possibly enlarging its stockpile of drought-emergency equipment.

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  • dimposs

    I suppose it goes without saying, really, but wouldn’t it be better to stop the point sources of the problem than try to gerrymander technical solutions that may end up being pointless once the full extent of allowing the unaddressed point source problems to persist come to fullness?

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