to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

[ Crowds at a New York City street (source: NYS Climate Impacts Assessment) ]

[ Projected annual average temperature in NYS (Source: NYS Climate Impacts Assessment) ]

[ Air pollution in NY caused by wildfires in 2023 (Source: NYS Climate Impacts Assessment) ]

direct impacts as temperature and precipitation patterns change and extreme weather events become more frequent. For example, less snowfall and a shrinking winter season could reduce opportunities for skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing, which support local tourism in the Adirondacks, Catskills, Central/Finger Lakes, and Great Lakes.

emphasizing the state's growing exposure to such events. New York's history with hurricanes and historic snowstorms, alongside its encounters with droughts and annual wildfires, illustrates its vulnerability to a wide range of environmental challenges, despite its generally water-rich environment. 

[ Wall Street sign post with American national flags (Urbanscape/Getty Images) ]

homes in NY City  at high risk of ​storm surges, valued at $334 billion for reconstruction. Moreover, many commercial properties, even those outside FEMA flood zones, face depreciation due to coastal flooding risks, leading to potential underinsurance issues. The threat of sea level rise also poses a risk of permanent asset loss in New York State's coastal areas.

​​New York State is one of the most socially and demographically diverse states in the country. As of 2020, it had a population of 20.2 million, with 8.8 million living in New York City; it encompasses over 50,000 square miles and possesses 127 miles of coastline. There is plenty of evidence that climate change is already underway here. Winters are now an average of 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were in the 1970s, heavy downpours have increased in recent decades, and since 1990 there has been a one foot rise in the state’s coastal sea levels. How will New York’s ecosystems, infrastructure, human health, and economy continue to be affected by climate change going forward?

According to 2024 NYS Climate Impacts Assessment, annual average temperatures are projected to increase in all regions of New York progressively throughout the 21st century Across the state, annual average temperatures are projected to increase by 2.5–4.4°F by the 2030s, 3.8–6.7°F by the 2050s, and 5.1–10.9°F by the 2080s, depending on global greenhouse gas emission rates.

This combination of higher temperatures, increased frequency of heavy downpours, and summer droughts in New York will likely:

  • Alter ecosystems, both on land and in water
  • Cause summer heat stress on humans, animals, and crops
  • Affect drinking water supplies
  • Increase heat-related deaths, water and food-borne illnesses, and vector-borne diseases like West Nile virus
  • Worsen cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses because of increased pollution, smog, wildfires, pollen, and mold
  • Reduce dairy production
  • Spread invasive species
  • Increase pest populations and create more difficult growing conditions, increasing the use of pesticides and fertilizers and thereby increasing water and air pollution
  • Compromise the integrity of infrastructure
  • Increase demands on electricity to meet cooling needs
  • Increase flooding, including around key transport infrastructure like roads, railroads, airports, etc.
  • Overwhelm sewage infrastructure, leading to an increase in pollutants in the water supply

​Global sea levels rise due to the warming and expansion of water and melting ice, with New York's coast particularly vulnerable as it sinks 1–2 millimeters annually, amplifying the effects of this rise. Rising sea levels pose significant risks to densely populated and ecologically important coastal areas like Long Island, New York City, southern Westchester, and the southern Hudson River Valley, increasing vulnerability to coastal flooding and affecting water levels as far upstream as the Federal Dam at Troy.

​​Furthermore, climate change is poised to escalate extreme weather events in New York State,  including severe storms, storm surges, droughts,  and wildfires, 

Climate change also poses significant economic threats across all sectors in New York State, with direct impacts on climate-dependent industries like tourism and indirect consequences for manufacturing, insurance, and finance through disrupted supply chains and increased climate-related risks and damages.

Tourism, crucial to New York State's economy, attracted over 250 million visitors in 2019, generating $73 billion in spending, with $7.3 billion on recreational activities, including outdoor tourism. Outdoor recreation and tourism might experience 

Natural resource–based sectors, including forestry and fisheries, and the ecosystem services they provide, are important for the state’s rural and coastal regions and communities, including its Indigenous Peoples. Natural resource sectors and ecosystem services are also highly sensitive to climate change.

Fish and forest animal populations will certainly be affected by climate change. New York’s hemlock forests, which provide habitat for many species, are already endangered by invasive wooly adelgid insects. The population of brook trout is also expected to experience significant damage as rising temperatures in the atmosphere spread to their water habitats. The economic impact of these climate change consequences should not be overlooked, as hunting and fishing contribute an estimated $3.5 billion to the state economy annually.

The finance and insurance industries face significant risks from climate change, impacting the underwriting of property insurance in areas prone to floods and fires. The increase in extreme weather events like hurricanes and wildfires threatens the sustainability of insurers' business models. An analysis highlighted over 834,000 

New York’s agricultural sector contributes $5.3 billion to the state’s economy annually and is comprised of approximately 33,400 farms. Longer, warmer growing seasons will make it necessary to develop new pest-control strategies and identify new types of crops to grow. Although heavy downpours will become more frequent, the summer growing months will generally be dryer. Currently, most farms in New York depend solely on rainfall for their irrigation needs, so inconsistent or uneven precipitation patterns will likely take a significant toll on the farming sector.

One example of a climate-sensitive agricultural sector in New York is the grape and wine industry, which is especially important in the Finger Lakes region. New York’s grape harvest is the third biggest in the nation and is valued at $69 million. Climate change could bring opportunity to introduce new grape varieties to the region. Warmer temperatures at the beginning of winter, however, can also raise the likelihood of mid-winter damage. In addition, the earlier arrival of spring or extended warm periods soon after winter could result in premature budding on grape plants, which would then be vulnerable to spring frost.

Cabbage, potato, and apple crops are expected to undergo reductions in both size and quality as climate change continues to unfold. Although new crop varieties could be developed, it would not be easy or cheap. New York state could lose its Empire and McIntosh apples, for which it is recognized nationally.

Another significant agricultural sector in New York is the dairy industry. By the 2080s, it is expected that there will be a six-fold increase from current rates in the loss of dairy productivity due to heat stress, which also causes health and reproductive problems in cows.

​​Damage to industry, whether agricultural, recreational, tourist, or manufacturing, also means damage to jobs. According to the American Security Project, New York State’s job market is expected to take a huge hit because “climate change-sensitive industries conservatively account for 290,000 jobs and $77 billion in profits annually in New York. Clearly, the health of the environment and economy are inextricably linked. We can soften the blow of climate change by investing in green jobs. Although many environmental changes are inevitable, we can still act now to prevent the worst effects of climate change and ensure a livable planet for future generations. It is clearly in our best economic and environmental interest to act sooner rather than later.


American Security Project. (2011). Pay now, pay later: New York.
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). (2010). Responding to climate change in New York State.
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). (2014). 2014 supplement - Updated climate projections report.
Lamie, C., Bader, D., Graziano, K., Horton, R., John, K., O’Hern, N., & Spungin, S. (2024).  New York State’s changing climate. In New York State Climate Impacts Assessment.

[ Farmworkers planting onions in Upstate New York (source: NYS Climate Impacts Assessment) ]

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​​​​The Impact of Climate Change on New York's Economy and Environment

​By Hannah Foster, TCCPI Intern, August 2011; updated by Aurora Namnum, CCETC Intern, June 2016; updated March 2024