Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 30, 2011

Report Released on Climate Change in NYS and Offers Adaptation Strategies for Lawmakers, Policymakers and Program Managers

A recently released report by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority – prepared by Columbia University, CUNY and Cornell – documents the global warming trends in seven different regions of New York State, discuss the effects of the warming and offers some suggestions on how to adapt to these impacts.  The effort, ClimAID, is an “Integrated Assessment for Effective Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in New York State,” and “was undertaken to provide decision-makers with cutting-edge information on the state’s vulnerability to climate change and to facilitate the development of adaptation strategies informed by both local experience and scientific knowledge.”

The Report offers the following observed climate changes in New York:

• Annual average temperatures in New York State have risen about 2.4ºF since 1970, with winter warming exceeding 4.4ºF.

• Sea level along New York’s coastline has risen about one foot since 1900.

• Since 1900, there has been no discernible trend in annual average precipitation for the state  as a whole.

• Intense precipitation events (heavy downpours) have increased in recent decades.

The Report makes the following projected changes:

• Climate models with a range of greenhouse gas emissions scenarios suggest temperature increases across New York State of between 1.5 to 3ºF in the 2020s, 3 to 5.5ºF in the 2050s, and 4 to 9ºF in the 2080s.

• Most climate models project a small increase in annual precipitation. Variability is expected  to continue to be large. Projected precipitation increases are largest in winter, mainly as rain, and small decreases may occur in late summer/early fall.

• Sea level rise projections for the coast and tidal Hudson River based on climate models (which do not include increased melting of polar ice sheets) are 1–5 inches by the 2020s, 5–12 inches by the 2050s, and 8–23 inches by the 2080s.

• If the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets continues to accelerate, sea level rise would exceed projections based on climate models. A rapid ice melt scenario, based on observed rates of melting and paleoclimate records, yields sea level rise of 37–55 inches by the 2080s.

• Extreme heat events are very likely to increase, and extreme cold events are very likely to decrease throughout New York State.

• Intense precipitation events (heavy downpours) are likely to increase. Short-duration warm season droughts are projected to become more common.

• Coastal flooding associated with sea level rise is very likely to increase. Areas not subject to coastal flooding now could become so in the future.

The report offers the following recommendations aimed at statewide decision-makers:

• Promote adaptation strategies that enable incremental and flexible adaptations in sectors, among communities, and across time.

• Identify synergies between mitigation and adaptation. Taking steps to mitigate climate change now will reduce vulnerabilities, increase resilience, and enhance opportunities across all sectors. At the same time, some potential adaptation strategies present significant mitigation opportunities while others work against mitigation.

• Improve public and private stakeholder and general public education and awareness about all aspects of climate change. This could encourage the formation of new partnerships for developing climate change adaptations, especially given limited financial and human resources, and the advantage of shared knowledge.

• Analyze and address environmental justice issues related to climate change and adaptation on a regular basis.

• Consider regional, federal, and international climate-related approaches when exploring climate adaptation options. This is crucial because it is clear that New York State adaptation potential (and mitigation potential as well) will be affected by national and international policies and regulations as well as state-level policies.

• Evaluate design and performance standards and policy regulations based on up-to-date climate projections.

• Create standardized, statewide climate change mitigation and adaptation decision tools for decision-makers, including a central database of climate risk and adaptation information for the state that is the result of an ongoing partnership between scientists and stakeholders

Recommendations for management associated with everyday operations within stakeholder agencies and organizations are:

• Integrate adaptation responses into the everyday practices of organizations and agencies, with the potential for complementary effects or unintended consequences of adaptation strategies taken into account.

• Take climate change into account within organizational planning and development efforts.

• Identify opportunities for partnerships among organizations and agencies within the state  and region.

Recommendations for science and research are:

• Refine climate change scenarios for New York State on an on going basis as new climate   models and downscaled products become available.

• Conduct targeted impacts research in conjunction with local, state, and regional stakeholders.

• Implement and institutionalize an indicators and monitoring program focused on climate, impacts, and adaptation strategies.

• Improve mapping and spatial analysis to help present new impact data and adaptation strategies.

• Focus studies on specific systems that may be subject to nonlinearities or “tipping points.” Work should be encouraged to understand the potential for tipping points associated with climate change impacts on natural and social systems.

• Research climate variability, extreme events, and other stakeholder identified variables of interest including ice storms, extreme precipitation events, and wind patterns.

• Build on economic cost and benefit work to create a better under – standing of the costs of climate change and benefits of adaptations on  a sector by sector basis.

The synthesis report can be accessed here:

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