5 ways New York City is Using Tech to Combat Climate Change 🗽

Nunny Reyes
5 min readSep 24, 2020

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Image of battery park as part of NYC’s resiliency project
A rendering of Battery Park to protect Lower Manhattan against storms

When Superstorm Sandy made landfall, it became clear New York City was not prepared.

The storm which was once considered a “once in a lifetime” for this region demonstrated to the coastal city that it is not immune from Hurricane season.

Superstorm Sandy devastated the Rockaways, left thousands without power, and flooded the concrete jungle. NYC’s Climate Action was nowhere ready for Sandy’s impact. A reality arrived much sooner than projected and NYC needed new ideas to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

Climate Clock in Union Square
Climate Clock in Union Square

On September 17, 2020 a clock in New York City began to countdown from seven years, 103 days, 15 hours, 40 minutes, and seven seconds. This deadline is a collaboration of artists, scientists, and activists to symbolize the amount of time we have left before reaching irreversible damage to our planet.

In 2020, finding some positivity let alone Climate Change Positivity can feel pretty rare.

This piece will highlight 5 Climate Change positive news where NYC is using tech to combat Climate Change 🌎

1. Climathons : Climate Change Hackathons 👩🏻‍💻👩🏽‍💻👩🏿‍💻

A hackathon involves students, designers, software engineers, policy experts, and other professionals to come together to create new opportunities for pressing issues today. Climathon is a one day competition designed to address problems presented by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The February 2020 Climathon focused on reducing one of NYC’s biggest climate problem: building emissions. They focused on Local Law 97 which is a municipal order for buildings to lower their carbon emissions as well as fine buildings that do not oblige.

Buildings in New York emit nearly 70 percent of its greenhouse gases, the mayor’s office recently reported.

Since 2015, Climathons have been held in 113 cities and 46 countries. You can read more about Climathons here.

2. NYC x Paris Moonshot Tech Challenge 🚀

“This new moonshot challenge is a call to action for technology to deliver breakthroughs that positively impact New York City and unite around a global issue,” said Miguel Gamiño, Jr., Chief Technology Officer.The superpower of the public sector is collaboration and partnership to solve common global problems.”

map displaying electric charging stations for vehicles in NYC
Map displaying electric charging stations for vehicles in NYC

New York City and Paris announced a competition to accelerate Climate Action. Winning solutions designed by scientists, architects, software engineers will complement previous approved proposals.

Paris has embraced adapting to electric vehicles and this challenge is serving as an opportunity to increase electric vehicle usage in NYC. To the left is a map indicating current stations.

NYC aims to have 20% of motor vehicles be electric by 2025

3. Engineering Software to bring Resilient and Green Spaces to life

Dillar Island in NYC rendering
Diller Island located by the neighborhood of Chelsea in NYC

Diller Island, formerly known as Pier55, is an ambitious park and performance venue will be set to open in 2021.

It will provide a buffer against storm surges and protect the marine estuary in the Hudson River. The design for this park had to innovate on civil and software engineering to create a space that is incredibly complex in build and in longterm ambition to protect from storm surges.

dillar island from above in the Hudson River
Diller Island view from above in the Hudson River.

4. Decarbonization through software

In 2018, $6.6 billion was invested in clean tech and in order to mitigate how quickly the planet is changing, drastic breakthroughs in technology have to occur. I’ll name two start-ups that are doing really incredible work in capturing carbon dioxide.

Charm Industrial: burns plant biomass to create hydrogen which captures greenhouse gases.

Ocean-Based Climate Solutions: supports the growth of algae that can capture carbon dioxide and deliver it to the bottom of the sea.

5. Study Hall: Climate Positivity At Scale

Banner for Study Hall’s Climate Positivity At Scale at the NYTimes building

Before New York City entered lockdown, one of the last events I attended was Study Hall by the Slow Factory at the NYTimes Building in Times Square.

Study Hall occurs in various cities globally and the focus of the one in New York City was geared towards Climate Positivity. The room was filled energy for Climate Action and the best work across the fashion, tech, environmental, finance, and art industry were presented on this day.

Hudson Carbon is an on farm soil laboratory that maximizes the carbon capture and restores ecosystems. They are essentially trying to create a new marketplace for natural carbon captures by working with farmers upstate. They offer farmers a way to be compensated for following practices that sequester carbon “one acre at a time”.

Study Hall’s event in New York City was a great reminder that Climate Change solutions do not fall on the shoulders of one industry. There is a collective responsibility to innovate, adapt, and create solutions for the planet we all call home.

If you know other Climate Positive news, would love to hear about them in the comments below!

Resources

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-york-city-carbon-emissions-from-trump-tower-and-other-buildings-80-percent/#:~:text=Buildings%20in%20New%20York%20emit,building's%5D%20heating%20and%20cooling%20equipment.

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Nunny Reyes

Latina Climate Scientist + Dev + immigrant | @FlatironSchool Fellow | sher/her