The Weather of the Future
, by Heidi Cullen
Can the Big Apple, a city of islands (and DISCOVER's home), be spared from rising seas and fiercer storms? As we covered earlier this year, there's plenty to do to save New York
from encroaching waters. Some architects see a circle of marshland around Manhattan to keep the waves at bay, bringing back mollusks to create natural reefs, or raising buildings off the ground to keep them from flooding. But none of this will be cheap. In Peter Ward's thought experiment that saw Miami's doom, "the fight for New York alone had necessitated cuts to national defense to the point that that United States had completely withdrawn from its foreign bases, defaulted on its Social Security obligations, and abandoned its short-lived national health care system."
In her book, Heidi Cullen
explains that there are more mundane annoyances on the way. She quotes Columbia University energy expert Steve Hammer: "For New York, climate change means blackouts." Plain and simple, more extreme heat means more AC running non-stop, and the city's power system won't be able to keep up. The water supply will be stressed as less precipitation will fall as snow on the Catskills, meaning less meltwater to flow to the city's taps.
Cullen's imagined future for NYC, though, is not a prognostication of doom. A near miss with a giant hurricane in 2013 scares the bejesus out of New Yorkers, who get serious about erecting proper defenses so that major storms don't create disastrous flooding throughout the city. Forecasting with a realistic eye, Cullen says the project is way late and over budget (so perhaps there truly won't be any money left for Miami). But by mid-century the storm barriers stand ready.