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Heather Leibowitz,
Environment New York

Updated interactive map shows impact of extreme weather events on New York

For Immediate Release

New York, NY–One hundred percent of New Yorkers live in counties affected recently by weather-related disasters according to an interactive, online map released today that crunches data from the federal government. Scientists say global warming is already exacerbating some extreme weather events and their impacts.

“From massive floods to severe storms, like Hurricane Sandy, dangerous weather is already hitting close to home,” said Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York. “And without action to stop climate change, scientists say these extremes—and their impact on New Yorkers—will only get worse.”

Environment New York researchers, who created the online map, Hitting Close to Home, found that since September 2010, New York experienced 11 weather- disasters, including severe storms, tornadoes, floods, tropical storms, snow and ice storms, and droughts.

Scientists predict unchecked global warming will increase the severity or the frequency of many extreme weather events. Hurricanes such as Hurricane Sandy, for example, are likely to be more powerful and deliver more rainfall because of warmer temperatures and sea level rise. 

In addition to statistics for recent weather-related disasters, the map includes personal stories from Americans impacted by extreme weather events across the country, including New Yorkers.

“The week before Sandy hit, we worked for hours trying to barricade the perimeter of the house,” began the story from Joe from Baldwin, New York. “As it started to get dark, we could see the water slowly coming. Within a ten minute period, we lost electricity and heard water swishing around beneath us.”

The map reveals that nationwide, more than 57 million Americans live in counties that were affected by more than five weather disasters over the last five years, while counties housing 97 percent of the population experienced declared disasters at least once.

The analysis comes as the New York State Legislature raided funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a key program limiting global warming pollution from power plants. These funds are meant to accelerate New York’s transition to clean sources of energy that do not contribute to global warming. 

“More and more entrepreneurs are seeing real-life impacts to their businesses and their bottom lines from climate change and the extreme weather events it creates, and they want something done to help curb those effects,” said Erik Rettig, Mid-Atlantic Outreach Manager for Small Business Majority. “Policymakers should embrace smart clean energy policies that would help mitigate climate change and prompt innovation—which would create opportunities for small businesses and boost the economy.”

Since the pre-industrial era, average global temperature has increased by nearly a degree Celsius. In December, nearly 200 nations reached a global accord to limit warming to no more than another degree – a benchmark scientists say is critical to avert even more severe and frequent weather disasters.

“To meet our commitment in Paris and avoid the most dangerous climate impacts,” concluded Leibowitz, “ultimately we need to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”