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June 30, 2015 | By:  Samantha Jakuboski
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Message to My Fellow New Yorkers: Why You Should Care About Climate Change

You wake up one morning, get ready for work, and lock your apartment door as you leave to catch the 7:30 bus uptown. Walking into the lobby, waiting for the coffee to kick in, you hear a ripple and immediately your feet go cold as water rushes into your new Chanel patent leather flats. Looking down, you discover that you have just stepped into a lobby filled with a foot of water, and through the glass doors you notice that the streets are submerged as well. Across the way, you see overturned cars and the Hugh Carey Tunnel filled to the top with seawater (above), and you let out a piercing gasp that resonates off the empty, flood-filled walls of the lobby.

Sounds like a nightmare, right? (I mean, those Chanel shoes cost a month's rent!)

Well, all kidding aside, as Hurricane Sandy proved to us in 2012, similar nightmares are starting to come true for thousands of New Yorkers. With climate change underway and intensifying our weather, such severe storms and destruction will indeed become the norm in the future.

Scared? You should be.

Right now, New York City is ill-equipped to deal with future storms of Hurricane Sandy's magnitude. Some areas in Manhattan are only five feet above sea level, so even a small rise in the ocean's level can have enormous effects come the time of a storm.

A 2011 study commissioned by New York State estimated that by 2050, the waters around New York could rise up to 30 inches (middle range: 11-21 inches), thus increasing the regularity and magnitude of coastal flooding. During Hurricane Sandy, the storm surges exceeded thirteen feet, and there was nothing to stop the East River from overflowing, flooding blocks and blocks of residential buildings, Wall Street firms, parking garages, Battery Park, and the subway system. It took months and millions of dollars to repair the damage, and if the sea level continues to rise, we can expect to see such devastation in the future.

It was also projected that by 2100, the ocean level could rise up to 72 inches (middle range: 22-50 inches), thus potentially transforming some low-lying parts of the city into a permanent Atlantis. (Think The Day After Tomorrow.) Personally, if I wanted to swim with the dolphins, I would just go to Orlando. But, then again-- nothing beats the convenience of one's own backyard. (And yes, sometimes dolphins do stop by the city!)

Additionally, as this past winter has clearly demonstrated, climate change has other profound impacts besides increased hurricane severity and heightened storm surges. As you may have noticed, the northeastern seaboard experienced one of the worst winters in history this year, with record-breaking amounts of snow and bitterly cold temperatures. (Click here for more information on the connection between climate change and unusual winter weather.) Now, wouldn't it be just horrible and heart/back-breaking if, for the rest of your life, you have to continue to shovel over six feet of snow each winter because of climate change!

So, you may be asking yourself: How can climate change be stopped so that I won't have to shovel out my driveway ten times next winter?

Well, that is where you, my fellow readers, come in. As New Yorkers and citizens of the world (yes, I went there!), it is our responsibility to change our lifestyles and live greener lives in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call for us, and for those of you who were previously nonchalant about climate change, I hope this is especially true for you. It is clear the climate change is not going to just "go away," and that it will continue to intensify unless we alter our lifestyles and embrace sustainability. By being environmentally conscious of our actions, we can cut down our carbon footprints and decrease the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, stopping climate change in its tracks.

However, in order for this green initiative to be successful, it needs the support and dedication of all New Yorkers. Yes, change may seem scary, annoying, time-consuming, and lacking in instant gratification. But, the long-term effects of your actions can help save the world for your children, grandchildren, and all future generations.

Plus, living greener does not mean you have to drastically alter your comfortable lifestyle. Little changes, such as taking public transportation to work, drinking from reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic ones, unplugging appliances when you are not using them, and switching from incandescent light bulbs to LED ones, can make a huge difference.

As New Yorkers living in the capital of the world (boy, am I full of clichés!), we have the power to be a source of inspiration for neighboring cities, states, and countries. Who's ready for an international movement to go green? I know I am!

Picture Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York (via flickr) and available for use under the CC license


Lovett, Richard. "New York Seas to Rise Twice as Much as Rest of U.S." National Geographic. 15 March 2009

O'Grady, Jim. "Sea Level Rise Could Turn New York Into Venice, Experts Warn." WNYC. 9 February 2011

"Sea Level Rise: Projections and Impacts for New York." New York State Department Environmental Conservation. n.d

"The Challenges We Face." Mayor's Office of Sustainability. n.d.

The New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force (2010). The New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force Report to the Legislature. Retrieved from

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