When Superstorm Sandy arrived in New York City on October 29, 2012, the city was jolted into a renewed conversation about climate change, resiliency, and long-term planning. In an interview with Gotham Gazette last year, Klaus Jacob, a geo-physicist advising the City on planning for climate change, said that climate change “truly threatens the livelihood of the city as we have it now — unless [the city] adapts.”

The chief concern is rising sea levels, Jacob said. The five boroughs are ringed by 520 miles of coastline, which are becoming steadily more vulnerable to day-to-day inundation and catastrophic storms.

Planning for the long-term consequences of a looming, but largely abstract threat is an incredible task for any local government. Sandy made climate change more real to New Yorkers, but the de Blasio administration is nonetheless forced to work mostly in hypotheticals. The new administration must make calculations for how far to plan into the future, how to allocate precious funds, and how much risk is “manageable.”

According to the New York City Panel on Climate Change, an advisory body on which Jacob and other scientists and academics sit, by the 2050s, sea level at the Battery will have risen 11 to 24 inches (middle estimate), or as much as 31 inches (high estimate) relative to 2000-04 levels. Coastal flood heights could increase by almost 3 feet – projected to range from 8 to 17 feet by mid-century, depending on the nature of the flood-inducing storm.

[Read more at the Gotham Gazette]