NEW HARTFORD — A small team of students from Hamilton College is helping the town conduct a climate risk assessment.
The assessment is a required part of the state’s Climate Smart Communities program. The program helps local governments take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate. Some of the perks of being recognized are leadership recognition, free technical assistance and grant access.
New Hartford town began looking at this last year with the formation of a Climate Smart Task Force.
“I think it was a great relationship,” said New Hartford Town Supervisor Paul Miscione. “It was great to get an opinion from someone outside the box of New Hartford.”
Aaron Strong, a relatively new faculty member at Hamilton, who is with the Environmental Studies Program, was approached by members of the task force to give a presentation on climate change in December at the New Hartford Library.
Strong then applied to the college’s Levitt Center to fund a team of summer students that would focus on community–level climate action. The center accepted the proposal. The next step was selecting Hamilton students to conduct the research. Strong chose Ravena Pernanand, Rachel Pike and Abigail Roller.
For 10 weeks starting in May, the three juniors worked full-time on the project. The majority of their work relied on using climate models to project future conditions in New Hartford.
They projected out, under three different scenarios: One where nothing is done; a scenario where the Paris Climate Agreement is fully implemented; and another approach somewhere in between.
The students looked at how warm and wet it likely will get in town following the three scenarios and used the outputs of the models to assess the impacts in terms of flooding, heatwave frequency, impacts to crops and more.
“Importantly, we didn't just make this report in a black box,” Strong said. “We met with the Climate Smart Task Force members to ask them which impacts were of greatest concern to them, and we structured our report around the impacts they chose (flooding, agriculture and public health)”
Strong said the three women have just finished a 60-page draft report for the project, which is expected to be finalized later this month. The report shows that New Hartford has significant climate change risks — infrastructural and economically.
The risks are mainly associated with flooding, heatwaves and the risk of tick-borne illnesses, the report states.
Miscione said he already has seen the results from the draft report. He believes New Hartford can address the issues raised moving forward and added the town already has started to implement means of addressing them, especially when it comes to stormwater and flooding, an issue that has dogged the town over the years.
Contact reporter Ed Harris at 315-792-5063 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_EHarris).