New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation announced Monday that the state has adopted official sea-level rise projections to help state agencies and coastal communities plan for the impacts of climate change, becoming one of the first states in the nation to formalize sea level rise projections.
The DEC first proposed the projection regulations in October of 2015.
The projections are based on peer-reviewed research conducted by scientists at Columbia University, Cornell University, and Hunter College as part of the New York State ClimAID study, which included consideration of possible rapid melt of land-based ice in Antarctica and Greenland.
According to the state DEC’s announcement of the adoption of the regulations, “research confirms that such rapid melting of land-based ice is occurring and could result in high rates of sea-level rise, especially if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.”
“The adopted regulation includes high projections of approximately six feet of sea-level rise by 2100,” the DEC added. “Many scientists fear that the likelihood of this rate of sea-level rise — or even more — will increase dramatically if current plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and vehicles are curtailed at the federal level.”
The study projected low, middle and high rates for sea level rise at Montauk Point to be between 2 and 10 inches by the 2020s, between 8 and 30 inches by the 2050s, between 13 inches and 58 inches by the 2080s and between 15 and 72 inches by 2100.
“As decades progress, the expansion of the range is driven by uncertainty in land-based ice mass change, ocean thermal expansion, and regional ocean dynamics,” according to the ClimAID study.
The study also projected mean temperature increases in New York City at between 1.5 and 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2020s, between 3.1 and 6.6 degrees by the 2050s, between 3.8 and 10.3 degrees by the 2080s and between 4.2 and 12.1 degrees by 2100.
Climatologists involved in drafting global climate conventions believe that global temperature change must be limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Revolution levels to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Changes in precipitation and extreme weather event frequency were also included in the ClimAID study, which can be accessed here.
“New York is already experiencing the impacts of our changing climate in the form of severe storms and weather events, and our sea levels are rising about two times faster than the global average,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership and the Community Risk and Resiliency Act, New York is out in front, building resiliency into permitting and funding actions, and providing key information, like sea-level rise projections, to help local governments, business owners, and planners ensure public safety and prevent the loss of property and services.”
Governor Cuomo signed the Community Risk and Resiliency Act, which requires the DEC to adopt sea-level rise projections for the state, in September of 2014.
CRRA requires state agencies to develop guidance on how to incorporate sea-level rise and future flood risk into applications for specified state permits and funding programs. The DEC and other agencies are currently developing this guidance, which will assist local governments in understanding the impact of changing water levels on their capital projects.
The DEC says a draft of the guidance will be issued for public comment “in the near future.”
The DEC conducted meetings with stakeholders and five public meetings in New York City, Albany and on Long Island while drafting the regulations.
“The adoption of sea-level rise projections makes us one of the first states in the nation to address the need for building resiliency, by allowing state agencies and coastal communities to better plan and adapt to the impacts of rising sea level and extreme weather events,” said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation.
“The economic and environmental risks due to future changes in sea level rise are a primary concern for coastal communities throughout New York State,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “The governor’s adoption of these new sea level rise projections provide a critical benchmark and planning tool to use in ongoing efforts to make communities better able to adapt to the new normal of climate change and create a more resilient New York.”
The text of the Quality Services Proposed Regulations and support documents are available on the DEC’s website.
The New York Climate Change Science Clearinghouse has also aggregated links to climate-related information to help community planners throughout the state.