Learning How to Live a New Normal: Understanding Climate Adaptation in NYC

NBC: June 23, 1988, marks the date that Dr. James Hansen, the former director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies, gave a testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee stating that the Earth’s climate is changing due to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Dr. Hansen’s statement sounded the alarm, awakening the global community and its leaders about the looming threat of climate change and its risk to humanity. 

Feeling alarmed, world leaders began to convene at climate change conferences to discuss the issue, its ramifications on humanity and solutions to address the impending crisis. World leaders have gathered every year since the first climate change conference in 1995, setting new goals and commitments to lower greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to prevent further warming of the planet. 

Yet, despite international efforts to prevent the onset of climate change, many scientists warn that the effects of climate change have arrived, especially in New York. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most of the state has warmed by 1 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit within the last century. Precipitation from heavy rain storms has increased by 70% since 1958 and many experts warn that the state could witness an increase in intensity and frequency of coastal storms such as Hurricane Ida which killed 48 people and destroyed dozens of homes in New York City and New Jersey. 

And while some politicians and world leaders alike have continued to make commitments that lower carbon emissions, other experts are encouraging politicians to think about the importance of learning how to live in this new reality by focusing on climate adaptation. 

“Climate adaptation is understanding that the climate has already changed and we need to change our communities in order to thrive,” said Amy Chester, the Managing Director of Rebuild by Design, an organization that began as a competition created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2013 to address the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Climate adaptation focuses on making communities more resilient against the effects of climate change. Adaptation efforts vary, but include the construction of infrastructure projects to the development of new crop species that can withstand higher temperatures. 

Chester’s work with Rebuild by Design focuses their efforts with infrastructure based solutions developed by collaborative efforts between local governments, communities and urban designers and architects. The organization has designed numerous climate resilient projects for New York City and State, including the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project, which has become a controversial subject for both community residents and environmental activists. Read more>>