On June 11, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented a report on the threat of climate change and outlined recommendations to protect the city’s neighborhoods and infrastructure. Patrick Kinney, ScD, director of the Mailman School’s Climate and Health Program, is the sole public health representative on the 14-member New York City Panel on Climate Change, which prepared the climate risk information for the report, titled “A Stronger, More Resilient New York.”
In announcing the results, Mayor Bloomberg said, “Hurricane Sandy made it all too clear that, no matter how far we’ve come, we still face real, immediate threats.” He added, “This is urgent work, and it must begin now.”
Dr. Kinney and his co-authors concluded that by the 2050s, heat waves, heavy downpours, and coastal flooding are likely to become more frequent in New York City. In the same time period, temperatures are projected to climb 4 to 6 degrees, precipitation to increase by 4 to 11%, and sea levels to rise by one to two feet. The authors make a number of recommendations, including for improved methods to predict the likelihood of climate hazards such as drought, winter storms, heat waves, and coastal floods. They also call for new ways to evaluate interventions designed to protect communities and better methods of communicating information on climate change to policymakers and the public.
Mayor Bloomberg also made a number of specific recommendations for strengthening infrastructure, including restoring beaches, strengthening dunes, and creating tidal barriers, levees, and bulkheads.
Dr. Kinney says, “Long-range planning, and the research to guide it, are essential if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. New York City is leading by example in this important effort.”
Dr. Kinney, professor of Environmental Health Sciences, has been at the forefront of research on climate change and its implications for public health. He helped establish the Mailman School’s Program on Climate and Health in early 2009. Dr. Kinney was named to the New York City Panel on Climate Change in January of this year.
Mayor Bloomberg has been an advocate for addressing climate change since he first commissioned PlaNYC, the City’s long-term sustainability plan more than six years ago. After Hurricane Sandy demonstrated that more was needed to protect the city from storms and other climate risks, Mayor Bloomberg launched a new Special Initiative on Rebuilding and Resiliency in December 2012 to develop a comprehensive plan for rebuilding damaged areas of the city, while also preparing for future climate risks. In the months ahead, the Panel on Climate Change will prepare a second report, focusing on more of the public health aspects of climate change.
Timothy S. Paul