New York, Climate Change, and Sea Level Rise: New Demands on Urban Planning and Architecture
Monday, January 7
Dr. Klaus Jacob, Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, will outline features of climate change expected for this century that will affect the built environment of New York City. Adaptation to a new climate will require innovative ideas for how to (re)plan and (re)build the city, from the underground infrastructure to the above-ground building stock. Apart from new demands on the built environment from more extreme wind, temperature, precipitation, and other extreme events, probably the greatest challenge will come from sea-level rise. In conjunction with Nor’easter storms and more frequent and stronger hurricanes, sea level rise will produce ever more frequent storm surge inundations of the City’s low-lying waterfront and underground structures. Changes in zoning and/or building codes will be one way to respond, but until implemented, voluntary measures may be used by foresighted owners. In the longer run (especially beyond this century) the following options, all “inconvenient”, present themselves: retreat from the waterfront to higher ground; and/or defensive “hard” engineering, with storm barriers and levees protecting properties anywhere from the very local block- or neighborhood scale, to storm barriers protecting the entire inner NY/NJ harbor estuary. The latter “solution” carries, however, ultimate catastrophic risks since there is no foreseeable upper level for sea-level rise. Whatever the future costly adaptation measures may be, climate change and sea-level rise are inevitable, and early anticipation seems prudent.


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