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June 11, 2013

NYC Releases Plan to Keep the Lights On In the Face of the Next Climate Disaster

Sandy from spaceAs climate-related extreme weather becomes more violent, officials across the country, including in New York City, are preparing for climate change and the next Superstorm. NOAA is already predicting more severe superstorms this season: their Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of seven to 11, including three to six major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). These ranges are well above the seasonal average of six hurricanes and three major hurricanes or superstorms.

Then yesterday the Bloomberg administration issued new warnings about New York City's vulnerability to climate change, offering updated data to encourage people to better prepare against hotter weather, fiercer storms, and increased rainfall.

Today the Bloomberg administration took their warnings a step further, by releasing a new plan that works to transform New York City into a lower-carbon, more resilient city. This plan, called "A Stronger, More Resilient New York," describes how the city can better prepare for major weather events, including superstorms. In a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Mayor unveiled the plan, which was developed in coordination with an array of city agencies, technical experts, representatives of Sandy-impacted communities, and community-based and non-governmental organizations citywide. The Mayor's plan provides a clear path to protecting New York's infrastructure, buildings, and communities from the impacts of climate change.

Given the far-ranging adverse impacts of climate change, building resiliency into city planning and disaster response must be an integral component of an effective strategy to address climate change. Of course, building low-carbon resilient cities must also be our overall goal in order to reduce cities' impact on our climate. In addition to action on the local level, the Obama administration must commit to dramatically reduce US carbon pollution and move forward with laws to limit carbon from power plants as soon as possible.

The government spent nearly $100 billion to respond to last year's storms, floods, drought, and wildfires. In order to keep up with this rising cost of climate change, the government now estimates the harm caused by carbon-dioxide emissions is $36 per ton (up from $22 per ton in 2013). With US carbon emissions totaling nearly seven billion tons, that's a cost of $252 billion. We can no longer sit idly by while Americans end up paying a price for the impacts of climate change.

-- Liz Perera, Sierra Club Senior Washington Representative. Photo of Hurricane Sandy hitting the U.S., courtesy of NASA.

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