Residents of Jamaica Bay consider it a great place to live in New York City. They are close to all the offerings of a large urban center and still get to experience the natural beauty of the region. But with ocean levels rising as a result of climate change people may not be able to live in many of the towns in Jamaica Bay for much longer.
“We have to start preparing residents for maybe being the final generation in those places,” said Robert Freudenberg, Vice President of the Energy and Environment branch of the Regional Plan Association, an organization that works to improve sustainability and quality of life in the Tri-state area. “But that is the conversation that nobody wants to have.”
Preparing for the effects of climate change on cities requires rethinking infrastructure. Some policymakers are working to make changes that ensure their cities can endure fluctuating temperatures, flooding and other consequences of global warming. Rather than waiting for environmental conditions to force their hand, cities around the globe are making plans to counter the effects of climate change now, from remodeling roads to reinstating natural geographic features.
These initiatives can of course be expensive. The Smithsonian Magazine reported on one infrastructure remodeling project in Miami, Fla. that was allotted a planned $500 million and aimed to make a variety of changes, including raising roads in areas vulnerable to flooding. However, the experts the magazine spoke with feel that planning for an uncertain future is key to protecting lives and property, and that is worth the expense.
The Smithsonian Magazine also reported on a project in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. The city has installed traffic tunnels that can also function as storm drains when weather in the region causes nearby rivers to flood.
Indonesia, another nation in Southeast Asia, has decided to entirely relocate its capital, Jakarta, due to the gradual sinking of the ground the city rests on. Nusantara, a city being developed from the ground up, is anticipated to become the new capital by 2045. Designs for Nusantara have kept sustainability in mind, with Bloomburg reporting that the Indonesian government has plans for 50% of the city to be open green space.
“Climate change will mean that any storm or drought or natural disaster will easily surpass what we have designed,” said Yu Kongjian, a landscape architect at Peking University, whose work involves developing measures to cushion cities from the blows of climate change, while speaking with The New York Times. “We are too dependent on this infrastructure, so whenever a natural disaster happens it will be overwhelmingly destructive.”
Kongjian is involved in an initiative seeking to protect cities from climate change by making their terrain more sponge-like. The measures Kogjian and his associates use to combat the effects of increased precipitation and rising water levels include restoring wetlands, digging storage ponds and decreasing the amount of asphalt covering the ground.
Variants of this initiative are taking place in cities all over the world, from Wuhan, China to Malmo, Sweden to Philadelphia in the U.S. The New York Times reports that these plans aim to protect cities from the effects of climate change while also making the cities more sustainable.
“It's tempting to think about the city of the future as very Blade Runner and sci-fi,” said Leon Rost, a member of the Bjarke Ingels Group, an international group of architects and urban designers, in an interview with Architectural Digest. “But it was a turning point in our project when we realized what really mattered was open space, clean air, and connection with other people.”
Some of these green initiatives are taking place in Jamaica Bay, with community plans to restore salt marshes and sand dunes in the area currently in progress. Though the projects might not stave off the flooding in that region completely, The New York Times reports, it will allow people to reside there longer and protect the rest of New York City.