This past spring, Susanne DesRoches, a graduate of Columbia University’s masters program in Environmental Science and Policy, testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Space, Science, and Technology about transportation resiliency. According to DesRoches, who currently serves as deputy director for infrastructure and energy in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, climate change is “a multifaceted problem that requires cross-cutting collaboration to address,” adding that “New York is a city that is both vulnerable to climate impacts and a long-standing leader of ambitious climate policy.”
DesRoches is directing a transition to 100% clean electricity by 2040 in NYC and oversees policy initiatives promoting the adoption and integration of clean energy technologies. She also leads city efforts to adapt regional infrastructure systems to a changing climate, which includes the development of the NYC Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines and leads the NYC Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, which works to identify climate risks and coordinate adaptation strategies.
“It was very exciting to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Space, Science, and Technology,” said DesRoches. “The members were very well informed and had excellent questions. Given the executive branch’s inaction, it was inspiring to see members from both sides of the aisle show concerns about the impacts of climate change on their communities today and ask for ideas from the panel about how federal agencies could take immediate action.”
DesRoches says the U.S. Department of Transportation should require all projects that receive federal funds to ensure resilient design by incorporating regional climate change projections through their useful life, holding states accountable for ensuring their transportation infrastructure is resilient today and in the future.
“Almost seven years ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City with unprecedented force, claiming 44 lives and causing over $19 billion in damages and lost economic activity,” DesRoches recalled. “It was the costliest natural disaster we have ever faced. As we took stock of the damage, it was clear that we could not just plan to simply recover from the storm. Instead, we needed to use the moment to address the risks of ‘another Sandy’ while broadening our approach to prepare for the chronic impacts of climate change, particularly sea level rise and storm surge. Sandy reminded us that there is no silver bullet solution for climate resiliency, and that a multi-layered approach incorporating diverse solutions – ranging from infrastructure hardening to social cohesion initiatives – are necessary to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate.”
When asked about the greatest climate change threats facing NYC’s transportation industry/systems, DesRoches said, “The greatest future risk to the city’s transportation network is storm surge, because so many pieces of critical transit infrastructure are located within the existing 100-year floodplain. Sea level rise will cause the 100-year floodplain to expand, and will put more of the city’s transportation network at risk of storm surge inundation in the years to come. The 100-year floodplain already includes 12% of the city’s roadway network, all of the major tunnel portals except for the Lincoln Tunnel, a portion of both airports located in the city, and many commuter rail and subway assets, particularly in lower Manhattan. Further, by 2100, 20% of lower Manhattan could be subject to daily tidal inundation, greatly impacting the ability of our transit links to maintain functionality. Extreme rainfall and heat will stress our networks further through localized disruptions and outages.”
Source:State of the Planet