For one of the most powerful cities in the world, we sure could’ve picked a better location.
New York City is poised to bear the brunt of climate change’s effects — from rising seas to shifting temperatures — over the next five decades, and signs of the coming scenario are already beginning to appear across the state.
Hurricane Sandy, which struck without mercy, was our first warning.
Climate change will make storms like Sandy far more common and more intense. As the earth heats up, more water vapor — the fuel for storms — enters the atmosphere. This combination of increased storms, more extreme temperatures, and rising sea levels will put many of New York City’s most prized resources — from its beachfront property to sizable chunks of its subway system and its local food scene — at risk.
Here’s a glimpse of what you should enjoy before it’s too late.
1. Waterfront Homes And Beaches
As oceans get warmer and northern sea ice begins to melt, sea levels will rise, increasing the frequency of floods. Eventually, entire sections of New York City will be permanently submerged.
Sizable chunks of lower Manhattan and the majority of waterfront property in Brooklyn and the Rockaways — a total of up to 250 miles of coastline — will flood; much of it will be completely destroyed. Many of these areas are also home to some of the city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods, like Long Island City, Queens, and Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
Beaches in those areas will also, quite literally, be washed away. In their 2014 hazard mitigation plan, New York City planners write that “long-term coastal erosion is 100% probable” for Coney Island, Brooklyn, the Rockaways, Queens, and South Shore, Staten Island.
2. North America’s Largest Public Transit System
After Hurricane Sandy struck, the MTA was able to rescue the subway from the brunt of the damage. In just a few weeks of intense pumping, drying, and reconstruction, several flooded stations were up and running again. Years later, only a few stations carry the scars of the storm’s devastation.
But flood waters from the next storm could overwhelm the same subway stations flooded during Sandy (all five tunnels between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn and the Steinway Tube between Midtown and Queens flooded), despite the MTA’s planning efforts. An additional 14 stations near the Harlem and East Rivers are also at risk.
3. Farmer’s Markets
Say goodbye to your local farmer’s market.
Shifting temperatures will make Northeastern dairy farms unsuitable for cows. Apple orchards will find they can’t produce enough of the fruit to turn a profit; Macintosh and Empire apples will disappear from farmer’s market shelves by 2100.
In warmer waters, local populations of salmon (which, when made into lox, graces every good New Yorker’s Sunday bagel and schmear) will migrate north. Native brook trout will disappear from New York waters, too. Bass might come to the area in their place, as the species loves warmer water.
4. Hiking And Camping
Love hiking, fishing, or camping in the Adirondacks or the Catskills? Better enjoy them now.
None of the plants or animals native to these 16 million acres of gorgeous spruce-fir forests will survive in a climate just five degrees warmer. Scientists estimate both forests will begin to die out as soon as 2050.
5. The Coffee Scene
New Yorkers drink 7 more times more coffee than people in any other American city. But most of that java comes from places around the globe where warming temperatures and altered weather patterns are killing the precious crop. A combination of coffee rust, a fungal infection that attacks the leaves of the coffee plant, and invasive species like the coffee berry borer are slowly destroying coffee plantations across the globe.
A recent study in the journal PLOS One found that the number of coffee-growing regions in Africa (where a mix of the right temperature, altitude, and soil moisture allow the plant to be grown in bulk) could be reduced by somewhere between 65% and 100% in the next 7 decades.
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