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Adaptation to Climate Change

The High Cost of Doing Nothing

A big gap in the road by the shore of a waterbody that was washed out
Higher sea levels intensify storm surges.
Superstorm Sandy's ferocious surge damaged
this road in Mount Loretto unique area, Staten Island.

How much our climate actually changes will depend in part on how successfully, and how soon, nations are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But some climate change is already unavoidable. New York State is working to estimate likely risks and help communities and businesses adapt to a changing climate.

Climate change impacts are likely to intensify, increasing the value of resilience measures adopted now. It is important to compare outlays for adaptation measures with the costs of doing nothing, and to take into account the importance of climate change losses to society.

New York's ClimAID Analysis

The analysis of the ClimAID report (see link on right) shows that failure to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change in a timely fashion may prove more costly than the supposed "savings" from delaying a response.

ClimAID concluded that unless resilience measures are put in place, by mid-century the total costs of climate change for key economic sectors in New York State each year may approach $10 billion (in 2010 dollars).The study projected the largest likely direct impacts and costs of climate change in coastal areas, chiefly impacting transportation, energy and other infrastructure, and natural resources. However, it concluded, all economic sectors and all parts of the state will feel impacts like lower agricultural crop yields and dairy production, or declining winter recreation tourism.

Stream and collapsed bridge
This bridge over Stony Clove Creek in Ulster
County is an example of the extensive damage
to inland New York's infrastructure by ten days of record rainfall from Hurricane Irene (2011).

Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA)

To strengthen New York's preparedness for climate change, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently signed into law the Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA). CRRA includes two key provisions to advance New York's climate change adaptation:

Aerial view of flooded buildings and parking lot
Extensive power outages or flood damage to roads can disrupt a wide area for many weeks.

  • Applicants to certain State programs must demonstrate that they have taken into account future physical climate risks from storm surges, sea-level rise or flooding.
  • DEC must establish official State sea-level rise projections by January 1, 2016. These projections will provide the basis for State adaptation decisions and will be available for use by all decision makers.

CRRA applies to specific State permitting, funding and regulatory decisions, including smart growth assessments; funding for wastewater treatment plants; siting of hazardous waste facilities; design and construction of petroleum and chemical bulk storage facilities; oil and gas drilling, and State acquisition of open space.

Improving resilience: Climate Smart Communities

By enabling localities to act on climate without mandating which programs or policies they should adopt, the Climate Smart Communities program helps localities to discover and adopt the measures that will work best for them in creating sustainable, vibrant and attractive places to live and work.

Climate Smart Communities undertake actions to increase energy efficiency, use of renewable energy, and opportunities for a green economy, as well as plan for sustainable land use and development in the face of a changing climate.


More about Adaptation to Climate Change:

  • Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA) - Provisions and implementation of the Community Risk and Resiliency Act, beginning with Part 490, regulation establishing State sea-level rise projections for New York.