4 major US cities prepared for rising sea levels
With the federal government casting off the task of emissions reduction, initiatives are now on cities and states to make up the shortfall. This is what the cities are doing to stave off the threat of climate change.
Cities are taken their responsebility
1. New York City
Despite the US-policy, Bill de Blasio, New York City’s mayor, has been addressing climate change as a real treat to the city of New York.The city remembers the demolition forces caused by superstorm Sandy and is taken all actions needed to decrease emissions.
“One of the greatest coastal cities on the earth will be increasingly threatened. It’s very painful to reflect the fact that Donald Trump is from New York City. He should know better.”
New York City has promised – along with California – to cut emissions 80% by 2050, De Blasio signed an order committing the city to the goals of the Paris agreement, including its most ambitious target – a warming limit of 1.5C (2.7F) beyond the pre-industrial era.
- New York City has already earmarked billions of dollars to retrofit 1m buildings to make them more energy efficient, electrify its municipal vehicle fleet, plant thousands of trees and coat rooftops in solar panels
- 50% of New York City residents don’t own a car and while energy use still results in nearly 50m tons of greenhouse gases, average household electricity consumption is well below the national average.
in surveys, three-quarters of residents say they are worried about climate change, with more than 80% wanting carbon dioxide to be regulated
- In order to protect the coast of Manhatten, the city gives land back to nature to become a blue-green buffer zone, a ten mile storm wall and waterfront park will protect Lower Manhattan and a new city service is managing coastal erosion
Michael Bloomberg, its former mayor, who recently stumped up millions of dollars for the UN climate secretariat, has said: “We are already halfway there – and we can accelerate our progress further, even without any support from Washington.”
Without a sharp reversal in emissions, parts of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn face being consumed by the sea, with the city’s two low-lying airports, La Guardia and JFK, expected to have water sloshing around the runways by the end of the century.
More than $20bn has been set aside for defenses to this threat, but some critics argue that as much effort and money should be spent on overhauling the city’s existing creaking infrastructure including the cities subway.
2. San Francisco
Since 2008, San Francisco departments hasve been required to submit climate action plans; ecological regulations across the city’s myriad layers of government have been centralized in the 26 chapters of San Francisco’s environment code. San Francisco’s path to a greener tomorrow comes via the “0-50-100-Roots” plan. San Francisco is making progress.
In 2015, the city measured its greenhouse gas emissions at 28% below 1990 levels – despite the city’s population growing nearly 20%, and a robust bump in its gross domestic product of 78%. SF Goals:
- “zero waste” by 2020
- 50% of all trips in the city being undertaken on “sustainable transportation”
- use of 100% renewable energy by 2045
- plans to protect and augment the city’s tree canopy
- drop emissions 40% by 2025 and 80% by 2050
Sustainability is a good business decision. Companies can save money and earn prestige. Employees feel “energized” to work for a place that espouses their own values. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Tesla, Lyft, and Uber are among the U.S. companies that have added their names to the “We Are Still In” campaignin an effort to bring the country’s business communities together with various state and local lawmakers to continue working to reduce the U.S.’s carbon emissions.
Miami Beach likes to bill itself as a poster child for the effects of climate change. Flooding from each successive year’s King Tides reaches farther inland and affects more homes, businesses and livelihoods, and the waters lap ever higher toward environmentalists’ dire predictions of a 5ft rise in sea levels in south Florida by 2100.
Philip Levine, mayor of the low-lying city was a signatory to the defiant open letter to Trump signed by more than 1,200 mayors, governors and education and business leaders pledging to abide by the terms of the Paris accord, and has promised to press ahead with Miami Beach’s ambitious works programme.
Other efforts to reduce the city’s carbon footprint include:
- the promotion of water taxis and trolley buses, to get cars off the streets
- incentives for green construction
Houston is by far the country’s biggest municipal user of green power. It annually uses almost 1.1bn kWh of solar and wind power, representing 89% of its total electricity use, according to the latest figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Among local governments, another Texas city with a strong oil and gas bent, Dallas, is second.
The mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, has built on the work of his predecessor, Annise Parker by burnishing the city’s green credentials while trying to avoid alienating traditional industries that helped grow the city and still drive much of its economy.
- almost 100% of the Houston city government’s power use now hails from renewable sources
- last April, Houston announced a 50MW solar plant based 600 miles away in the remote west Texas town of Alpine was online and able to provide up to 10.5% of the city of Houston’s needs. The plant has 203,840 solar panels spreading over 360 acres
- Houston is also cutting its emissions
since 2007 the city has seen a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from municipal operations. That has been achieved by measures such as replacing light bulbs, demanding that new buildings be made as energy-efficient as possible, retrofitting fire stations, police stations and libraries, and not only acquiring greener vehicles but also improving logistics so they are used more intelligently
- acorner on the first floor of a city permitting office is given over to a green building resource centre, with eclectic exhibits designed to educate visitors on the benefits of going green – from recycling to high-efficiency toilets to bioswale that removes pollutants from stormwater run-off. A screen displays usage data from the solar panels on the roof.
Houston is densifying the city and provide more transportation alternatives to give people an option besides single occupancy vehicle travel all the time.
What could cities learn from the Dutch
New Orleans has always been a special case because so much of it is below sea level and prone to flooding. In the 1950, officials from the Netherlands visited the city to learn more about how the city pumps excess water into Lake Pontchartrain. After Katrina devastated The Big Easy, officials from New Orleans reached out to their Dutch colleagues to learn more about their approach, which involves “living with the water.”
The Netherlands has an extensive infrastructure of dikes and levees — just like New Orleans — but it also has plenty of grassy areas, woods, and wetlands designed to soak up excess water. Green roofs covered with plants absorb some of the rain before it ever gets to street level. Permeable concrete in cities also helps aid the fight against flooding.
Since Katrina, New Orleans has created seven rain gardens to absorb standing water and plans to spend $220 million creating new green areas where rain water can collect rather than flood the streets.
“After Katrina we realized we had to live with water within the city,” Jeff Herbert says. “We have hard infrastructure such as pumps but also nature-based solutions because pumping can’t handle it all. We had to go back to what existed in the city in the 1930s and 1940s, before mass development took place.”
“Many cities have dams, levees and flood walls which are a fairly narrow and inflexible response to flooding,” said Jeff Opperman, global freshwater lead scientist at WWF. “There is growing appreciation in the US that we need to diversify, to set the levees back, use natural vegetation and allow the river room. But then there’s political decisions around development and that’s a less rational process.”
Houston could learn from New Orleans, but will it? For the past 50 years, it has been busy filling in its wetlands to support new communities that came into being as people flocked to the area, attracted by employment opportunities in the local economy — most of them dependent on fossil fuels.
“There’s a big variation in how cities are preparing. Some are doing almost nothing,” says Sabrina McCormick of George Washington University and lead author of a 2015 study of six US cities. “Houston’s approach is similar to other cities in that it hasn’t looked into the future and taken the risks seriously. Unfortunately we are seeing the ramifications of that.”
Orlando is now the largest city in Florida to make such a commitment and joins a growing movement of more than three dozen cities nationwide that have committed to a 100 percent clean energy future.
All across the state and the nation, cities are committing to a future powered by 100 percent clean and renewable energy for all. Today, Orlando joins this growing movement of cities that are ready for 100 percent clean, renewable energy.
The Politics Of Disaster
Americans are flocking to cities, most of which are located in coastal areas. But the US government was set up to protect less populated rural areas from being overwhelmed by more populous cities. That bias means the Senate and the Electoral College heavily favor rural areas, which means policies that benefit the urban areas where most Americans live have a hard time getting approved by Congress.
There are very few rural areas near America’s coastline. Politicians from the so-called heartland are now showing they could care less about the plight of those urban areas. Last week, all six Republican congressman from Missouri voted against a bill to provide emergency funds to the Houston cleanup effort. The same was true of Republican congressmen representing Kansas City.
America Needs A Plan
“Ideally we’d have a national plan to help guide cities toward some basic level of planning to address these risks,” says Sabrina McCormick says. “If we don’t see that leadership, cities will have to look to other cities to figure out where to go next. We also need to mitigate our greenhouse gases to reduce the impact in the first place.”
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