As the effects of climate change begin to be felt, Ithaca begins to prepare

As the global climate threat change-related weather events are intensifying, infrastructure, agriculture, human life and property in New York State and Ithaca City are being impacted. Meanwhile, local preparation for these changes is limited or just beginning.

On February 27, the United Nations Intergovernmental The Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its annual climate report report. The report says that in North America, climate change will affect agricultural production, infectious diseases, heat and malnutrition, displacement and damage from floods and storms. According to Deloitte Economic Institute, inaction on climate change could cost the US economy $14.5 trillion by 2072.

Mark Wysocki, New York State climatologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the impacts of climate change are already visible in the state and the northeastern United States.

Wysocki said sea levels in southeast New York have risen nine inches over the past 20 years and projections are expected to rise another 10 inches over the next 10 years. In central New York, falling snowfall and rising temperatures are impacting the economy by attracting less ski-tourism and inhibiting agriculture. More broadly, the northeastern United States has seen an increase in extreme rainfall and flooding.

Abigail Aitken, a junior environmental studies student, said her classes generally deal with the impacts of climate change more broadly. However, as students progress through the environmental studies program, their interactions with the local environment reveal the impacts of climate change.

“[Climate change is] a reality that we cannot change at this point that applies to everything in our world whether you actually address it or not, Aitken said.

In Ithaca, the top climate change concerns are floods, droughts and climate refugees, said Rebecca Evans, sustainability planner for the city of Ithaca.

According to the United Nations Refugee Organization Agencyon average 20 million people per year are forced to move within their country due to climate change.

“[Ithaca is] is going to become a truly sought-after destination for people seeking refuge from rising sea levels, increasing heat, or the inability to provide large-scale air-conditioned spaces, Evans said.

According to a report by ProPublicathe northeast and midwest will become the most suitable areas for living in the United States, as other parts of the country face unsuitable conditions for living and farming.

Although protected from climate change in many ways, Ithaca is at risk of major flooding due to its location relative to Cayuga Inlet, Fall Creek, Cascadilla Creek and Six Mile Creek, according to the Local Flood Hazard Analysis (LFHA) created for the city of Ithaca in 2020. In February 2022, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released the first flood hazard draft menu of Ithaca since 1981.

FEMA defines a 100-year flood zone as having a 1% annual flood risk. According to the FEMA map, at its widest point in the city of Ithaca, a 100-year floodplain covers nearly a mile of land from Cayuga Inlet west to Linn Street, and nearly 3 miles from the lake. Cayuga on the southern border of Ithaca.

“I have been in Ithaca for a long time and over the years it has become more and more common that downtown [the] The Fall Creek area will be totally flooded once or twice a season,” said Lauren O’Connell, a professor in the Department of Art History.

O’Connell, whose specialties include architectural history, said the college is protected from flooding due to its location on South Hill. The buildings are also protected from bad weather and extreme temperatures by their concrete frames, sturdy materials and minimal height.

According to the college’s website, athletics and events Centerthe Dorothy D. and Roy H. Park Center for Sustainable Business and the Peggy Ryan Williams Center, wall feature durable, energy-efficient designs that allow for minimal use of fossil fuels. O’Connell said, for example, the Park Center was built with a wall of south-facing windows that catch sunlight to heat the building naturally.

Evans said where she lives in downtown Ithaca, a rainy day can flood her basement up to 3 inches.

“They used to call [100-year-floods] once in a lifetime, but as we know, once in a lifetime seems to happen many times in our lifetime,” Evans said.

According to Tompkins County Risk Mitigation plan (HMP) updated in 2021, from 2012 to 2020, eight major floods in Tompkins County cost more than $1,942,000. In February 2022 Cascadilla Creek and Six Mile Creek floodedparticularly affecting South Meadow Street which is home to Ithaca’s major shopping malls.

FEMA maps will also determine flood insurance rates. According to websitemany homes in the 100-year flood zone require flood insurance, which Evans says could cost homeowners about $100 a month.

Evans said the city doesn’t seem well prepared for a massive flood. The LFHA assessed the flood risk for the city and compared flood mitigation strategies. The plan recommends dredging Cayuga Inlet, a flood mitigation structure for the city, to increase its water capacity, build taller flood walls and install devices to prevent flooding in the system. of sewers.

In the event of extreme weather conditions and flooding, the college has response plans. the Emergency The preparedness and response guide recommends evacuating to an undecided location.

Samm Swarts, deputy director of emergency preparedness and response, said campus evacuation would only occur in extreme scenarios and an evacuation location would be selected at the time of the event. If the event is less extreme, Swarts said many campus buildings have designated shelter areas.

“When bad things happen [it] allows us to practice and it allows us to really see where the holes are in our planning and then go back and redesign the plans, if necessary,” Swarts said.

Flooding also poses threats to agriculture, as do droughts, rising temperatures and extreme weather, said Kacey Deamer ’13, communications specialist at the Cornell Small Farms Program (CSFP). Climate change is having many impacts on local farms, including crop failures, livestock heat stress and long pest seasons.

Wysocki said these issues will get worse; when farmers treat their plants with more chemicals to control pests, increased rainfall and flooding will then produce greater runoff of these and other pollutants into water systems.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agencymore frequent extreme weather events and supply chain disruptions will drive up global food prices.

“[Storms] can really be a disaster for our farms. We’re not just talking about water, but we’re talking about high winds. Depending on where it happens in the season, you could have a complete crop failure and loss and there’s no coming back after that,” Deamer said.

South Hill Forest Products (SFHP) is a college student-run company that produces and sells products including honey and maple syrup. Aitken, who is TA for SFHP this semester, said she hasn’t seen any direct impacts on the sugar bush and apiary operated at the college, but both production processes are susceptible to climate change.

Aitken said maple syrup production begins when temperatures rise above freezing during the day and ends when the maple trees are budding in the spring, a timeline that changes with climate.

“Having those that are below freezing at night and above freezing during the day is literally what makes sugar possible,” Aitken said. “Having fluctuating climatic conditions makes it much more unstable.”

Aitken said honey bees are also affected by temperature changes which determine their chances of winter survival. Climate change also affects how much and when nectar and pollen are available for bees to use in the process of creating honey. All of these changes, Aitken said, are things that beekeepers and maple syrup producers will have to adapt to in the future.

Although agriculture in Ithaca is affected by climate change, Deamer said many crops grown in New York are exported. If an influx of climate migrants enters the state, the food system must be reassessed to address food insecurity, Deamer said.

In 2019, New York adopted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) to pursue clean energy and climate response statewide with consideration for climate justice, job creation, and public health. Currently a frame plan which will outline the steps towards the objectives of the CLCPA is being developed.

Sustainability Tompkins, a community organization located in Tompkins County, announced on April 13 that it will be launching a new series of webinars to educate the public about these upcoming effects. The first webinar, Climate Disruption and Food Security, will be held at noon on April 27 and will feature a panel of local farmers, scientists and activists.

At the first of 10 public hearings held in the Bronx and on Zoom on April 5, community members commented on the scoping plan, including asking that the plan address a dedicated funding stream, climate justice and racism and a positive career transition.

“As someone who migrated from Bangladesh, a country that is on the frontline of climate change despite negligible contribution to carbon emissions, I can tell you unequivocally that the displacement, disease and migration resulting from the economy of fossil fuels are real and that carbon emissions and pollution know no borders,” Arif Ullah, Executive Director of South Bronx Unite, said during the April 5 hearing. “What we do here, our policies here, affect not just New Yorkers but people everywhere.”

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