News Archive

posted 02/14/02

Region Should Plan for Climate Change, Report Says
Researchers and decision-makers discuss the role of climate extremes and trends in planning processes.

As the New York metropolitan region moves forward after the September 11 tragedy, we should pay attention to opportunities to minimize our vulnerability to climate change," states Cynthia Rosenzweig, a climate scientist with the Columbia Earth Institute and a principal author of the newly released Metro East Coast (MEC) report, Climate Change and a Global City: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. (see

The Metro East Coast report recommends adaptation and mitigation strategies for the future in response to documented climate trends.

The MEC report documents climate trends and their potential impacts on many aspects of life in the region: coastal development, transportation, wetlands, water supplies, public health, energy demand, and decision-making. Now, adaptations to climate impacts need to be explored and developed, including such coping strategies as:

  • Protecting transportation infrastructure.

  • Creating buffer zones so that saltwater marshes may retreat as seas rise.

  • Safeguarding sewage-treatment plants from enhanced storm surges.

  • Improving energy efficiency and passive cooling methods to lessen urban island effects.

Decision-makers and officials in the New York metropolitan region are already beginning to incorporate climate extremes and trends into the planning process. Incentive programs for saving energy, for instance, help New Yorkers adapt to the increased energy demands that warmer summer temperatures are likely to bring. "Good planning simply makes good sense," says Christopher Zeppie, Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's Office of the Environment.

Stakeholders from agencies ranging from the Port Authority to the NYC Department of Health, the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region II, the Environmental Protection Agency Region II, and the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers participated in the compilation of the Metro East Coast Regional Assessment. Other stakeholders were from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Southeastern New York Intergovernmental Water Supply Advisory Council, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the Regional Plan Association. Collaboration was the order of the day.

Protecting transportation infrastructure is one of the report’s recommendations. Increased frequency and height of storm surges is a potential consequence of climate variability and change.

By taking climate variability and change on board, the region's decision-makers have a chance to set an example for other cities and to be global leaders for the 21st century, notes Rosenzweig. "We want New Yorkers to address climate variability and change in ways that will benefit the present as well as the future and that other cities can follow," she says.

In fact, Rosenzweig and William Solecki of Montclair State University, the Co-Leader of the MEC Assessment, are involved with a new network of scientists and planners in cities from Shanghai to Sao Paolo to Johannesburg, to promote consideration of potential urban impacts of global warming trends. "The Metropolitan East Coast Assessment was designed to be a template that other cities can follow as well," Solecki says.

The Report is part of a national study of climate impacts, commissioned by Congress and carried out by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, called the National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change for the United States. For more information on the National Assessment, visit

Aerial photos of wetlands in Jamaica Bay show a loss of about 12% since 1959. Coastal development plans should include buffer zones for these important elements of the New York area ecosystem.

In addition to the stakeholder agencies, the participating researchers, from data specialists to public health experts, water and wetlands specialists, and risk analysts, are affiliated with departments of Columbia University's Earth Institute, as well as other area universities including New York University, CUNY, City College, SUNY Stony Brook, and Montclair State University.

Related Links:

Metro East Coast Regional Assessment Luncheon
(Admission: By Invitation Only)


About The Earth Institute
The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit