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We now know, without scientific question, that the Earth is warming fast, that 2016 is on pace to be the hottest year in the books, setting a record for the third year in a row. To begin to fathom what the future could hold for New York, I went to the Princeton office of a research organization called Climate Central, which has developed programs that map out sea-level projections.Climate scientist Ben Strauss set me up on the most advanced version, which uses 3-D Google Earth imagery, and apprised me of the latest gloomy research.
Now, a surge of six feet has a one percent chance of happening each year — it’s what climatologists call a “100 year” storm.
By 2050, if sea-level rise happens as rapidly as many scientists think it will, today’s hundred-year floods will become five times more likely, making mass destruction a once-a-generation occurrence.
Policymakers may trumpet the Paris Agreement, signed this year, which aims to cut carbon emissions enough to hold global warming to a target of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, but even if the accord succeeds, some change is “locked in,” because we’ve already spewed so much carbon into the atmosphere. Using a special 3-D mouse, I swooped like a drone over a familiar reference point at the corner of Canal and Varick Streets: the landmarked former industrial building that houses this magazine’s offices.
Strauss added that in Antarctica, enormous glaciers appear to be melting faster than previously estimated, making the current worst-case projections look more and more like probabilities. With one foot of sea-level rise, the map didn’t change that much.
“When I saw it, I said, ‘Oh, God, I can’t do this, this is against all my professional ethos,’ ” Jacob said.
“There are other considerations in life that enter into these decisions.
At three feet, though, a tide of blue covered Hudson River Park and West Street.
Four feet, five feet: The blue crept east along Canal, toward the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.
Like a stumbling boxer, the city will try to keep its guard up, but the sea will only gain strength.
No New Yorker, of course, needs to be reminded of the ocean’s fearsome power — not since Hurricane Sandy.