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CAB MINUTES: MAY 2013

CAB Minutes

5/20//2013

 

Present: Joyce Lannert (Chair), Steven Rapkin (Vice Chair), Judith Moldovar Cholst (Vice Chair), Shavonne Johnson (Secretary), Michael Bauman, Renee Cherow-O’Leary, Beth Knobel, Sarah Lenigan

 

Absent: Matt Bancroft, Lue Ann Eldar, Elinor Fuchs, Lisa Labrado, Harriett Olsen, Kate Rath, MJ Robinson, David Tereschuk

 

16 members from the public attended

 

Joyce Lannert (Chair) opens forum at 7:12pm

 

Joyce Lannert (Chair)

-Describes purpose of Community Advisory Board (CAB) for NY Public Radio

-Recruitment Announcement for applications to next year’s CAB

 

Tonight’s Panelists:

Andrew Freedman - Senior Science Writer, Climate Central

Dr. Klaus Jacobs - Professor and Special Research Scientist, Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Bob Yaro - President, Regional Plan Association

Leah Cohen - Policy Advisor, Climate Resilience, Mayor's Office for Long-Term Planning and Sustainability - City of New York

Joyce Lannert - Moderator

 

Each Panelists Gives Opening Remarks:

 

Andrew Freedman - Senior Science Writer- Climate Central Research organization that communicates about climate change and its impacts (non-advocacy organization)

-Increasingly weather events are being discussed as unusual and suspicious and not just a weather event

-The risk profile of NYC and other areas in the United States are changing

-Some extreme events can be linked to climate change, others not so directly

-Sea levels are definitely rising. Odds of a 100 year flood have increased and will be worse by 2030 with see level rise by 26%.  Odds without sea level rise 8%. Global warming triples the odds.

-There were components of Sandy that can be attributed to sea level rise, but most of it was a weather event. Global warming did not cause Sandy but increased its impact.

-There 14 - billion dollar disasters in United Sates in 2011

-We are starting to experience weather whiplash Mississippi went from record flood to drought and back to flood in one year. 

-NYC is now trying to focus on resiliency and trying to figure out how to reduce the impact by building things better.

-Sandy was caused by weather-wise by more than one thing coming together such as a huge area of high pressure over Greenland; blocking Sandy from going out to sea, that high is unusual in its strength for that time of year; unusually warm seas surface temperatures, which can be related to climate change, and a huge dip in Jetstream across central United States.

 

 

Dr. Klaus Jacobs - Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Since 2008, he has been on the NYC Mayor’s Climate Change Panel, NY State’s ClimAID Project, and Prepared the MTA’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan

-Dr. Jacobs applies risk methodology to assess risk to metropolitan area. He has focused on risk to infrastructure, especially transportation system in NYC.  This breaks down to looking at the Hazard x Value of the Asset x the Vulnerability of the Asset = Risk

 

There are fundamentally 3 ways to deal with the problem:

1)      Protection - A) Centralized - Barrier System; B) Decentralized - Protecting block-by-block making each building able to withstand flooding.

2)      Accommodation by letting the water into the streets and the buildings and wet proof the infrastructure by moving electrical equipment to high ground. Let the water come in and go out and then clean. This allows functionality to be brought back very quickly.

3)      Planned Managed Strategic Retreat - Moving to higher ground, elevating houses, give up commercial ground floor spaces ad make buildings only functional above a certain height, etc.

 

Retreat is the hardest for cities to accept. In the long run, though, we may have to give up portions of our settled land areas at some point.

 

Bob Yaro - Regional Plan Association oldest independent metropolitan policy research and advocacy group; Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board for Plan NYC 2030

 

-We need to better prepare places that were once waterways and wetlands that were not filled very well like areas around Canal Street, and south Brooklyn, Rockaways, South Queens, Staten Island, etc. ¾ of a million Brooklynites experienced some flooding from Sandy.

 

Flood Insurance Premiums are going to be so high in some places that people will choose to move out of flood prone areas.

 

Areas that got the brunt of the 1938 and 1954 hurricanes in the area and decided to turn the land into conservation area withstood Sandy better.

 

It is very expensive to continue to bail out communities that are in flood prone areas, especially places that do not even have year-round residents.

 

Yaro lives in Stamford, CT, which has a 17ft high surge barrier that was built in the 1960’s. It used to close every 3-4 years for serious Nor’easters, but more recently closes 2-3 times a year for major storms.  They had an 11ft. surge during Sandy and nothing was damaged.  Development stays within the barrier.

 

-NYC needs to look at a range of solutions such as dunes and wetland restoration combined with elevation and retreat.

-A surge barrier like London and St. Petersburg should be considered.

 

 

Leah Cohen - Senior Policy Advisor with Mayor’s Office for Long-Term Planning, Rebuilding and Resiliency

-Presented Slides on the SIRR (Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency:

SIRR builds upon the Bloomberg administration’s focus on the causes and impacts of climate change.  It was created in response to Hurricane Sandy by Mayor Bloomberg’s administration.

 

-SIRR is charged with answering three main questions:

1 -What happened during Sandy and why?

-Sandy was a unique and large storm. Weather conditions lead to record surge.  Sandy’s timing was during high tide at the Battery, which made its stronger impact.

 

2 - What could happen in the future (the full range of climate hazards)?

-There is about a doubling of the area for New York’s 100 year floodplain, so more areas are now at risk of severe impact from weather events.  However, SIRR considers events beyond hurricanes, but also heat waves, such as the July 2006 killed about 140, which is more than three times the people who died due to Sandy), strong rain storms such as the one that shut down the MTA in 2007, as well as sea level rise, etc.

 

3 - How do we rebuild post-sandy and for future climate events?  How should the city address climate risks?

-Sandy was a wake-up call to the city because we are more at risk than we thought.

-There is a team working to increase the resiliency of the city’s critical infrastructure and built environment. This includes coastal protection, hospitals, power, drinking water and waste water treatment plants are working. 

-There is also a team focusing specifically on how to rebuild communities most impacted by Sandy and how to better prepare them for the future - areas such as east and south shores Staten Island, South Brooklyn, Southern Queens, Brooklyn-Queens waterfront and Southern Manhattan.

 

-Cohen works to answer these three questions with a team of 30 + professionals divided into five teams:

1-Outreach

2-Infrastrucuture/built environment

3-Community rebuilding and resiliency plans

4-Climate Analysis Group (Lead by Leah Cohen)

 

-SIRR is expected to deliver its final report in May/June 2013

 

The goal of SIRR is to be ambitious and bold, but achievable:

- SIRR acknowledges that the city has limited resources, but will try to achieve the most benefit for every dollar spent.

-SIRR is focused on a multi-layered approach to reduce recovery time where impacts do occur. This will be done through coastal protection, changes that can be made to the built environment, infrastructure and critical system with fewer outages and if there are outages then faster restoration time.

- They are also still address particular local needs including ongoing recovery of local businesses.

 

Discussion amongst Panelists:

Klaus- Sees the barriers as being a temporary solution because of sea level changes. IT must be combined with other actions.

 

Yaro - Aggress with Klaus and people should be weary of anyone says there is only one solution to this issue

 

Freedman - There is data that shows that there are certain factors in the Atlantic right now that make the east coast more vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes for 2013.

 

Joyce Lannert (Moderator) - What factors?

 

Freedman - The location of the warmest pool of water which is the main development region for tropical storms.  The most important issue though is communication. The meteorological community got the forecast right, but communication was off because the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical cyclone.  The storm surge was updated between Saturday and Sunday and did not leave a lot of lead time before the storm.  From a journalism standpoint there is a risk of how to communicate the full impact of the storm.

 

Cohen - NOAH is already staking steps to correct the communication issues that occurred during Sandy.  Also, as a city risk communication to individuals needs to be better so that they don’t stay back and try to protect property.

 

Q &A

Question from CAB Member:

We’ve been talking about technical changes but what can we do environmentally to help change things and not just prevent damage, but change the climate itself?

 

Klaus - Every country needs to participate in lowering CO2.  One country cannot do it alone.

Cohen - NYC has a commitment and wants to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% 2030 (more than halfway towards that goal) and then 80% by 2050, which is what the global science community aggress is the goal to reduce climate change.

Yaro - We have to do both reduce emission a in the developed world, but also implement adaptation.

 

Joyce Lannert (Moderator) - What should the public media be doing?

 

Klaus - The media should be doing what WNYC is doing, which is talking to the leading experts in town who are model protagonists on this topic. Continue to do what reporters like Andrea Bernstein did when interviewing NJ Transit.

 

Freedman - You have to figure out what narratives resonate with people and get around the political and cognitive factors that get in the way of perceiving the climate change narrative, so people are motivated to take action. This American Life did an hour on climate change recently - Saturday, May 28, 2013.

 

Question from Audience Member:

Whatever price tag comes along with rebuilding is going to be staggeringly high.  Is the city looking at alternative building or materials for better resiliency?

 

Yaro - Better boardwalk rebuilding is being done. Better landscape design like dunes and building design standards. You can’t prevent it, but you can prepare communities better.

Cohen - NYC passed an executive order in zoning to allow building back to higher standards if they want to and community block grant funding.  Agrees with Yaro’s, earlier statement that flood insurance rates will increase so high that it will determine where people live.

Klaus - For every dollar spent on climate adaption you save 4 dollars of not incurred losses.

 

Question from CAB Member:

Climate change can be politically contentious what do you say to people who don’t believe that it exists and how does this divide slow things down?

 

Yaro - It is better to understand that it is changing instead of what is causing it and how to move forward.

Klaus - Let’s focus on risk we already exposed to now to be better prepared.

 

Question from Audience Member:

Can you explain the difference between sustainable and resiliency?

Freedman - Sustainability is focused on green development and reducing energy consumption, etc. Resiliency is the key word in climate adaption context.

Klaus - Sustainability has a strong ethical component.  It has an inter-generational equability to it.

 

Question from Audience Member:

How do you define risk warning and vulnerable communities? We saw people reacted differently with different socio-economic backgrounds.

Freedman - Better communication needs to be done.  There were no storm surge warnings or maps for Sandy. Impact maps should have been issued. The National Weather service is moving to fix that communication.

Cohen - Generator stock needs to be in place beforehand. Understand where people are located and what medical needs may have to be met. SIRR is also looking at the correct messaging to get people to take action to protect themselves not only for storms like Sandy but other weather events.

Klaus - You cannot organize a few days before a storm. There needs to be organized long-term organizations in place that people can trust and rely on in times of need.  Local groups will know the members of the communities what their needs. Grassroots organizations such as Knights of Columbus, faith-based organizations, etc. can be a part of this local network.

 

Joyce thanked panel and adourned forum at 9:02pm