Hot subways to floods, all part of NYC climate risk

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday announced an in-depth study of perils the city faces from climate change, ranging from overly hot subways to shoreline floods.

Commuters wait to board the New York City Subway in New York March 10, 2008. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

With 506 days left before his second and final term ends, Bloomberg is eager to cement his legacy by shoring up the city’s finances and devising long-term plans.

“There are costs to adapting to climate change ... By planning now, we can reduce our exposure to weather-related events,” the mayor told reporters.

A task force charged with safeguarding all of the city’s roads, bridges, tunnels, mass transit, water and sewer lines, and power and telecommunications systems will begin with an inventory. It will then forecast and report on the local impact of climate change and devise safeguards, he said.

“In order to manage any problem, first you have to measure it,” Bloomberg said, recalling a lesson he learned while working on Wall Street. “In God we trust; everybody else has to bring data.”

His latest effort is one of the 127 green initiatives launched last year in his PlaNYC program.

New York City already has plans in place to deal with terrorist attacks, the collapse of a water tunnel, snow storms and hurricanes, Bloomberg said, listing a few of the possible hazards.

Cynthia Rosenzweig, a Columbia University research scientist and panel co-chair, cited extremely hot weather as a risk to the city’s subways that could result in “having more people affected in subways on hot days, causing more delays” due to medical emergencies. Droughts, increased black-outs and brown-outs were also on her list.

Emily Lloyd, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protections, highlighted the importance of keeping upstate reservoirs clean without having to install costly filters. The system supplies New York City with 1.1 billion gallons per day, and in 2011 the city plans to open a third water tunnel.

The panel’s members include city and state agencies, as well as corporate members such as representatives from Time Warner, Cablevision Systems, and Sprint Nextel Corp.

Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Dan Grebler