Commentary By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern
New Jersey has set a new record this year for soaring temperatures and lack of snow accumulations making this winter feel more like spring. Climate change has undeniable effects, causing New Jersey’s sea level to increase faster than any other part of the world.
According to the Official Site of the State of New Jersey and Rutgers New Jersey Climate Change Resources Center, with this comes an immense threat to the state’s natural resources, economy, culture, and property, and projections show it will only worsen in the years to come.
From 1979 to 2019, Rutgers New Jersey Climate Change Resources Center found that the New Jersey coast sea level rose 17.6 inches (1.5 feet). During those 40 years, the global mean sea level total change only rose 0.6 feet. Officials’ estimates show that by 2050, the New Jersey coast’s sea level will meet or exceed 2.1 feet and increase to 5.1 feet by the end of the century, causing 6000 plus New Jersey buildings to become swallowed by water.
The state has already felt the impacts of climate change imposed on its public health, safety, and property through heavier rains, higher temperatures, and more frequent and often coastal flooding. A large contributor to climate change is the build-up of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. These gasses emitted make it hard for heat from the Earth to radiate into space.
Data from the Official Site of the State of New Jersey found New Jersey has experienced a 3.5 Fahrenheit increase faster than any other state in the Northeast region due to the increase of greenhouse gas emissions. The leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey is transportation, electricity generation, and fossil fuels.
New Jersey has addressed these challenges in the past. Most notably, in October 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 89, which established the Interagency Council on Climate Change Resistance shortly after he signed an order in 2018 that committed to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
Executive Order 89 brought together seventeen agencies responsible for maintaining New Jersey’s resources and communities’ physical, environmental, and economic health. The order also established the Chief Resilience Officer for New Jersey. His duty was to create and deliver the state’s first Climate Change Resilience Strategy.
According to the Official Site of the State of New Jersey, the Climate Change Resilience Strategy, created in October 2021, intends to use capital to maximize co-benefits at every opportunity and develop solutions to ensure that New Jersey landscapes, communities, and economies become designed and prepared for the future. The strategy aims to promote long-term mitigation, adaptation, and resilience for the state and assist decision-makers in planning for the slow, ever-growing transformation to sea level rise.
Furthermore, in 2007, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine enacted the Global Warming Response Act. The act addressed the issue of increased greenhouse gas concentration and its effects on climate change and aimed to reduce emissions 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050.
Current greenhouse gas mitigation initiatives are imperative to minimize the long-term threats of climate change. However, even with aggressive emission reductions, greenhouse gasses will remain in the atmosphere leading to further climate change impacts. Despite this, resilience to the ongoing changes to the natural and built environment needs and aggressive action from governments and institutions are crucial to curb emissions.
The Official Site of the State of New Jersey estimates that by the mid-21st century, 70 percent of summers will be hotter than the warmest summer experienced to this day. It is imperative the state takes immediate action to reduce emissions, or else the sea level will continue to rise, leading to further and more intense detrimental effects on the state of New Jersey.
To learn more about what the New Jersey government and institutions plan to do, visit https://dep.nj.gov/slr/ and https://www.nj.gov/dep/bcrp/resilientnj/docs/dep-guidance-on-sea-level-rise-2021.pdf.
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