New York City, one of the world’s most iconic cities, faces a disconcerting future as it grapples with the alarming reality of sinking. In a groundbreaking study by the US Geological Survey, the profound impact of climate change and human activity on the city is unveiled. By the year 2100, rising sea levels and melting glaciers could cause New York City to sink up to a meter and a half, posing a significant threat to low-lying areas, especially Lower Manhattan. However, the sinking city issue extends beyond Manhattan, affecting Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, and areas around Jamaica Bay.
Through satellite imagery, co-author Tom Parsons reveals that certain areas of New York City are sinking at an unprecedented rate. This sinking is primarily attributed to the weight of the city’s built environment, with its one million buildings exerting a staggering 1.7 trillion pounds of pressure on the underlying land. The artificial filling in of land has further contributed to this sinking phenomenon, exacerbating the city’s vulnerability.
New York City ranks third worldwide for flood risk, with 90% of buildings in vulnerable areas ill-equipped to handle floods. This poses not only a threat to the city’s infrastructure but also to the lives of its residents. Urgent measures are required to fortify the city against the rising waters and the increasing intensity of storms.
The sinking city phenomenon is not unique to New York; it is a global issue affecting numerous coastal cities worldwide. By 2050, the United Nations predicts that 70% of the human population will reside in cities, a significant portion of which will be in coastal areas. The plight of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital and the fastest sinking city globally, serves as a stark warning of the consequences of unchecked groundwater extraction and land subsidence.
New York City finds itself at the forefront of a monumental challenge as it grapples with the dual threats of sinking and climate change. Urgent action is necessary to protect the city’s infrastructure, residents, and cultural heritage. The sinking city phenomenon is a wake-up call for coastal cities globally, demanding proactive measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change and human activity. The future of New York City and other vulnerable urban centers hinges upon collective efforts to build resilience and foster sustainable practices that preserve these vibrant metropolises for generations to come.