The Impact of Climate Change on the City and the State

| May 25, 2023

By Peter Aronson

Climate change is currently impacting every person and every living thing – plants, bugs animals – in New York State.

While this is a global emergency, this article will focus on the direct impacts to New York State and New York City, so we can all better understand what’s going on in our communities.

The annual temperature in New York State has increased 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970, higher than the national average, and it is projected to rise by as much as another 3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2080. New York winters have warmed three times as fast as its summers.

This increased warming, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Science has concluded, is indisputably caused by human-caused emissions of greenhouse gasses.

With the warmer winters, comes more rain instead of snow and fewer days below freezing. This changing climate “may no longer be able to support the types of plants, insects and wildlife living in New York” stated the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), in a detailed report. Species will move north or die off. This is and will continue to impact industries and economies that depend on fishing, hunting and tourism. Less snowfall will put plants at risk and cause drier soil conditions, increasing the risk of wildfires.

The number of extreme weather events is increasing around us, as increasingly warm and moist air, enhanced by warmer ocean waters, supplies energy for hurricanes, nor’easters and other super storms. Winter Storm Elliott, the historic blizzard in Buffalo in December 2022,, which dropped almost 52 inches of snow in a few days and left 47 people dead, was at least partly caused by climate change , experts say. So was Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which killed 43 people and caused $19 billion in damage in New York City’s five boroughs.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida, in late summer 2021, deluged the metropolitan area with record rain, causing flooding that killed 13 people in the city, with the low-lying areas of Queens the hardest hit and causing an estimated $16 billion to $24 billion in damage to the Northeast.

Even the recent rains of April 29 and 30 in New York City caused major disruptions and dangerous conditions, with some trains suspended, streets flooded, car passengers trapped and a building collapse in the Bronx. Almost six inches of rain fell in 60 hours, the New York Post reported. 

This increases capital expenditures across the state, according to a report by the Office of the New York State Comptroller. In a sample survey done by the office of some local governments across the state, more than half of the $1.34 billion in capital projects expected in the next 10 years in those surveyed will be due to increased flooding and storm damage brought on by climate change.

The transition from winter to spring is coming earlier, increasing the length of the growing season. While this has its advantages, it also brings many negatives, including more invasive species, weed growth and crop disease and increased demand for irrigation, creating pressure on our water system, NYSDEC reports. These negative impacts on agriculture, including those caused by extreme heat events, potentially will drive up food costs in the area.

Also, the increased number of extreme heat events has a particularly dangerous impact on cities because of the “heat island effect,” increasing health risks and driving up energy use because of air conditioners. In New York City, there are an estimated 370-heat related deaths every summer, with a disproportionate share in disadvantaged communities, the city reports.

Warming oceans already are impacting New York’ commercial fishing industry, with certain species moving to colder, northern waters.

The Atlantic Coast, including New York, is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, posing a risk to our ecosystems and people living near water, the NYSDEC reports. The tidal areas of New York City, Long Island and lower-to-mid Hudson River are particularly vulnerable to flooding. 

All these negative impacts – warmer temperatures, increased precipitation, rising sea levels and extreme weather events – all put stress on vital sectors of society: transportation, agriculture, energy, and public health. 

We must examine all of these issues with an environmental justice lens. The negative impacts of climate change are made worse for those in disadvantaged communities and those suffering from income insecurity. 

New York State is studying the impact of climate change on the region. For more info, please see

< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit

Get Involved