On YouTube: Milbank Tweed Forum - Superstorm Sandy (April 2013)
Coastal Processes & Hazards - News

Milbank Tweed Forum: Climate-Proofing New York (April 2013)

Duration: 1 hour 20 mins and 40 secs
SBU investigator Malcolm Bowman begins speaking at 1 minutes 50 seconds into the broadcast

What should New York City be doing to prepare for climate change? Some people propose building sea barriers, drawing on the experience of the Netherlands. Others argue for "managed retreat" or buying out homes in areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy and vulnerable to future storms and rising seas. Opponents of retreat insist on rebuilding damaged areas and do not want to abandon communities or lose the socio-economic diversity of the waterfront areas in the region. There are also a wide range of ideas for improving the city's infrastructure to better withstand the effects of climate change.

"Climate change is real ... it's getting worse and it's not going to go away anytime in your lifetimes," says Bowman, addressing the audience. He proposes that New York City respond in a variety of ways: "It depends partly on how far ahead we look into the future or what kind of threat we want to protect the City against."

Since Sandy, Bowman adds that there have been a multitude of idea on what the City, Long Island and New Jersey should do to protect themselves against storm surges. During a seven minute outline of his plan of approach, Bowman says that he encourages researchers like himself to help bridge the gap between environmentalists and engineers so that everyone works toward a common goal: "We must never let a catastrophe like the one we saw with Sandy ever happen again."

Bowman also chimes in on the storm surge barrier discussion four about three minutes, at around 31 minutes and 15 seconds into the panel discussion. "No one is proposing that storm surge barriers be constructed this year, next year or in the next 25 years. But now is the time to start studying all the effects."

At around 1 hour 7 minutes and 26 seconds in, Bowman talks about a moment that emphasizes how long he's been talking about the concerns that we saw come to fruition on some level last Fall with Superstorm Sandy. In 2005, he wrote an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times entitled, "New Orleans has drowned; Is New York City Next?"  "The editor said, 'Malcolm, you can't do that. It's too provocative.' And so they changed the title to 'A City At Sea,' which kind of shocked me as a matter of principle because an Op-Ed piece is just a matter of someone's opinion."

Adapting to climate change and flood protection is key, as Bowman mentions, at around 1 hour and 11 minutes in, via a suggestion to New York City to take a look at factors in the building codes like the '1-100 year risk' and re-evaluate them.


Eddie Bautista, Executive Director, The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance
Malcolm Bowman, Distinguished Service Professor and Professor of Physical Oceanography, State University of New York at Stony Brook
Stuart Gruskin, New York Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer, The Nature Conservancy
Cortney Worrall, Chief Operating Officer, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance


Katrina Wyman, Professor of Law, NYU School of Law

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