Interactive map shows local impacts of weather-related disasters in New York

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Heather Leibowitz

[New York, NY]- Over 19 million New Yorkers live in counties recently affected by weather-related disasters, according to a new interactive map using data from the federal government. Scientists say global warming is already exacerbating some extreme weather events and their impacts.

“We used to think of climate change as a problem that would happen someday, somewhere,” said Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York. “But as this map helps demonstrate, global warming is happening now, and it’s already hitting close to home.”

Environment New York researchers, who created the online map, found that since 2010, all 62 counties in New York have experienced weather-related disasters. Scientists predict unchecked global warming will increase the frequency, severity and the catastrophic impacts of events like Hurricane Sandy.

In New York, Hurricane Sandy had resulted in 90,000 buildings within the inundation zone, 2 million people without access to power, and total of $19 billion in damage.

“Events like Hurricane Sandy really changed how my family and community look at the bay and ocean by us,” said Kimberly, who lives in Long Island’s coastal neighborhood of Merrick. “Before these waterways were just beautiful. Now we’re scared about the danger and financial toll they can take.”

The mapreveals that nationwide, more than 40 million Americans live in counties that were affected by more than five weather disasters over the last five years, while counties housing 96 percent of the population experienced declared disasters at least once.

The analysis comes as New York and eight other Northeastern states are preparing to discuss improvements to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a successful program that has helped to cut global warming pollution from power plants in New York and across the region over the last 5 years.

It also comes just weeks before world leaders convene in Paris to reach an international agreement to slash global warming emissions.

Since the pre-industrial era, average global temperature has increased by nearly a degree Celsius, and climate scientists view another degree increase as untenable, leading to increasingly extreme weather events that will make parts of the world uninhabitable.

“To avoid even more dangerous climate impacts,” said Leibowitz, “we need our leaders to act boldly to slash carbon pollution and transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy.”