Climate change in New York City

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Global mean surface temperature difference from the average for 1961–1990

Climate change in New York City could affect buildings/structures, wetlands, water supply, health, and energy demand, due to the high population and extensive infrastructure in the region.[1] New York is especially at risk if the sea level rises, due to many of the bridges connecting to boroughs, and entrances to roads and rail tunnels. High-traffic locations such as the airports, the Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel, and the New York Passenger Ship Terminal are located in areas vulnerable to flooding.[2] Flooding would be expensive to reverse.[3][4]

Rising temperatures could bring a higher risk of heat related deaths from heat waves and increased concentrations of ground-level ozone (potentially causing asthma and other health concerns).


New York has launched a task force to advise on preparing city infrastructure for flooding, water shortages, and higher temperatures.[5] To provide for its water needs, the city has secured water rights, built reservoirs, and constructed transportation systems like water tunnels and securing safe drinking water for the near future.[6]

Influences on New York City Climate Change[edit]

Reducing one’s carbon emissions is easier said than done. An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore suggests several ways that we are increasing the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making global warming inevitable. Al Gore provides ways we can reduce these carbon emissions, such as recycling and using energy-saving products. However, the pollution information site Scorecard provides data of the health of the counties in New York, revealing that the release of hazardous air pollutants, lead or other toxic chemicals into the air varies depending on categories such as race/ethnicity, income, poverty, education, job, and home ownership.[7]

The right-to-know is one’s right to receive information about the annual releases of toxic chemicals by industrial facilities across the United States. The Emergency Planning and Right to Know Act is enforced in the U.S. through legislation in order to protect citizens against industrial toxic pollution. This information is available in order to keep track of increasing toxin releases and identify high toxic-releasing companies. Once these records are publicly released, individuals have the freedom to respond to that information however they please. If a shareholder of a specific facility is discouraged by the facility’s amount of toxin releases, that person may choose to remove themselves as a shareholder. This is why is it important to minimize underreporting or overreporting of toxic emissions. Although this information is available to the public, New York seems to continue to struggle with keeping carbon emissions low. According to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, New York City generates 14 million tons of waste and recyclables annually at a cost of $300 million for residential waste alone.[8]

Scorecard has documented that the risk of cancer from New York County hazardous air pollutants in each category was almost always the same for each side of the spectrum (kids below poverty and kids above poverty, for example). The information also shows that the lower-income and minority groups emit a greater percentage of toxins and pollutants than others. Toxic disposal and storage facilities (TDSF) are built in low-income areas with lower-valued homes because those residing there are less likely to have the purchasing and political power to fight against it, unlike those living in high-income communities.[9] This means that they will not have the means to make a change against this, so TSDF’s are often built in low-income communities with lower-valued houses. Even so, the 2010 New York State Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Plan states that the number of commercial TSD facilities in New York have declined over time with 30 commercial TSD facilities in 1988 and 13 commercial TSD facilities in 2008.[10] This is a positive and negative accomplishment, because there are fewer TSDF’s in general, but there are increased usage and pollution emission levels at the few TSDF’s that are available.

The 2010 New York State Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Plan also presents important information when evaluating the TSDF’s in each county. Chapter 1 of the siting plan states that ten-day transfer stations, generators who store for less than 90 days, facilities or locations for collecting household hazardous wastes, facilities for collecting non-manifested waste such as universal waste, sanitary landfills, and trucks are not included as TSD facilities in the detailed analyses included in the Plan.[11] This shows that not all hazardous waste facilities are taken into consideration when examining the eligibility of a county for building more facilities. Omitting such facilities from the analyses presents inaccurate calculations and assumptions. Those facilities still emit pollution and wastes, regardless of the size of facility or time-length of the waste transfer.

Homeowners in New York emit a larger percentage of toxic chemicals into the environment than renters do, since those who own homes require more energy use. Also, the air pollutants that contribute the most to cancer in New York are diesel emissions. This makes sense because New York has a lot of busy counties with many tourists and overpopulated counties. Many people rely on public transit in New York City, for example, since it is so cheap and easy to access compared to owning a car. This intense use of the public transit system increases those people’s carbon emissions. The Scorecard analysis states that New York experiences only 45% of days with good air quality in a year, and 1% of days with unhealthful air quality. Because of this, New York ranked among the 10% dirtiest/worst of all counties in the United States in 2003.[12] In regards to air quality management, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability supports that “the City has implemented a policy to reduce, replace, retrofit and refuel City vehicles. In 2014, the City reduced its fleet by at least 5 percent and expanded the use of biodiesel. Additionally, 400 vehicles were upgraded through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) and other funding sources, and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) were installed on 685 buses in 2014”.[13] These advances bring hope to the reduction of future carbon emissions, but consistency is key.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ What major climate change impacts are projected for the coming decades? ."CIESIN . Earth Institute at Columbia University , n.d. Web. 16 Oct.2009. <>
  2. ^ "How will climate change affect the region’s transportation system?" CIESIN . Earth Institute at Columbia University, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2009. <>.
  3. ^ "What are the projected costs of climate change in the region’s coastal communities and coastal environments?" CIESIN. Earth Institute at Columbia University, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2009. <>
  4. ^ Climate Change in New York.” NextGenerationEarth. The Earth Institute Columbia University, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2009. <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. Retrieved 2011-05-05. >
  5. ^ "New York Launches Survival Strategy For Climate Change." The Earth Institute, Columbia University. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2009. <>.
  6. ^ McGowan, Alan H. "Time for a 'Climate' Change in New York." Environment 43.3 (April 2001)
  7. ^ "Summary Report: NEW YORK County." GoodGuide, 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2015.
  8. ^ "PlaNYC 2030." PlaNYC. NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability, 201. Web. 13 Aug. 2015.
  9. ^ Boyce, James K. "Is Inequality Bad for the Environment?" Political Economy Research Institute. University of Massachusetts Amherst, Apr. 2007. Web. 11 Aug. 2015.
  10. ^ "New York State Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Plan." New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Oct. 2010. Web. 9 Aug. 2015.
  11. ^ "New York State Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Plan." New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Oct. 2010. Web. 9 Aug. 2015.
  12. ^ "Summary Report: NEW YORK County." GoodGuide, 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2015.
  13. ^ "PlaNYC 2030." PlaNYC. NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability, 201. Web. 13 Aug. 2015.

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