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Designing a climate resilient New York City


Humans have adapted to a changing climate for as long as we have been around. The rub is that now, humans have settled in with large cities, economies, transportation networks, and an agricultural system dependent on a snapshot of the climate in time. A change in the climate (either warmer here, or colder there) can stress on the systems we’ve laid down.

New York City is as a prime example of a city negatively impacted by climate change. Its vulnerabilities were made all too apparent by Hurricane Sandy: transportation networks flooded, electricity was lost, homes and businesses sustained billions of dollars in damage, etc. However, Hurricane Sandy is also serving as an impulse to reimagine New York City for a new reality of rising water tables, more frequent severe storms, a growing population, while maintaining the aspects that make New York City a boon for tourism and investment.

New York City of the future could incorporate green spaces and more density to be resilient to a changing climate while retaining characteristics that make New York City, well, New York City. Image from Atlantic Cities.

A post from last December in The Atlantic Cities by Roy Strickland offers a vision of a Manhattan redesigned to be more climate resilient. On the design above:

Here, river fronts are made more accessible to the public; flood mitigation structures are integrated with new public facilities such as schools and recreation centers; neighborhoods in flood plains are provided campuses mixing work and living spaces above the water line; congested streets are turned into landscaped pedestrian ways; energy-efficient and aerodynamic skyscrapers vertically layer commercial, office, research and learning places; and mass transportation choices are increased.

The results: A Manhattan more durable in the face of climate change that accommodates growth while providing a more sustainable, less stressful environment.

Check out the rest of the designs. Climate change isn't all doom and gloom; it can be an opportunity for creativity and new ways of thinking.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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