New scientific report details climate change impacts on New Jersey

TRENTON, NJ — New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection has led a comprehensive effort to synthesize the latest and most reliable scientific information on the current and predicted future impacts of climate change on the Garden State, Gov. Phil Murphy and DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe announced June 30 as they released New Jersey’s Scientific Report on Climate Change. The report is one component of the state’s comprehensive strategy to both reduce emissions of climate pollutants that fuel global warming, and proactively plan and prepare for the climate impacts that New Jersey cannot avoid.

According to the report, New Jersey has seen the evidence of climate change in its increasingly mild winters, more intense rainfalls, flooding along inland streams and rivers, and more tidal flooding along the coast. These events can threaten public health and safety, destroy property, undermine critical infrastructure, and damage New Jersey’s economy, including the vibrant tourism industry supported by the shore and lake communities.

“As New Jerseyans know too well, the impacts of climate change threaten our property, public health, safety, and can wreak long-lasting damage to our economy,” Murphy said. “Almost eight years later, some residents of our state are still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy, and there are businesses and beloved landmarks that have never recovered. Just as we have seen with respect to the COVID-19 crisis, our commitment to environmental health will too create economic health. We know that now is the time for climate action, and DEP’s Scientific Report on Climate Change will shape our planning and response to this coming crisis.”

“Many of the impacts of climate change are already familiar to New Jerseyans, including increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, and more frequent and intense storms,” McCabe said. “As our climate continues to change, it is urgent that New Jerseyans understand what future impacts are likely to occur, and when. Together, we can plan for and adapt to those changes, helping one another to keep our communities safe and our economy strong. This report provides the information necessary to focus New Jersey’s strategic climate resilience planning initiatives while we work to modernize our environmental regulations, making them more responsive to these climate realities.”

As New Jersey’s Scientific Report on Climate Change explains, data indicates that as atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases increase, New Jersey will experience significant direct and secondary changes in its environment. These include increases in temperature, variability in precipitation, frequency and intensity of storms, sea-level rise, ocean acidification and the associated impacts to ecological systems, natural resources, built environments, human health and the economy.

Key findings from the report are as follows:

  • Historically unprecedented warming is projected for the 21st century, resulting in longer and more frequent heat waves that impact larger geographic areas.
  • Annual precipitation is expected to increase from 7 percent to 11 percent by 2050 and occur in more intense rain events that could result in an increase in localized flooding.
  • By 2050, there is a 50-percent chance that sea-level rise will meet or exceed 1.4 feet and a 17-percent chance it will meet or exceed 2.1 feet, resulting in increased coastal flooding during sunny days and storm events, impacting infrastructure, residents and businesses. Sea level will further increase by 2100 by as much as 6 or more feet.
  • Periods between rain events may be longer, causing drought conditions more frequently, increasing potential for reduced water supply availability, reductions in agricultural capacity that lead to shortages in food production and increased prices, and economic loss from impacts to livestock, and reductions in hydroelectric power production.
  • Unabated CO2 emissions would reduce ocean pH, creating a more acidic ocean that could impact important marine and estuarine life and New Jersey’s fishing industry.
  • Increases in temperature expected as a result of climate change could intensify air pollution as well as respiratory and cardiovascular health concerns. Such impacts are of particular concern for already overburdened environmental justice communities.
  • New Jersey’s agricultural yields could suffer as water supplies are stressed from an expanded growing season, while some crops may not thrive in warmer temperatures.
  • Wildfire seasons could lengthen or become more intense as a result of hot, dry periods resulting from increased temperatures, potentially increasing the risk to New Jersey communities.
  • The frequency and intensity of harmful algal blooms may increase, disrupting swimming and fishing in New Jersey’s lakes, and posing risks to drinking water reservoirs.

“This report will empower governments, businesses and people across the state to better understand how climate change is impacting and will continue to impact all aspects of life in New Jersey,” said David Rosenblatt, the state’s chief resilience officer and assistant commissioner for climate and flood resilience at DEP. “The more we learn about and experience the impacts of climate change in New Jersey, the clearer our urgent need for resilience planning becomes. My DEP team and I are grateful for the incredible scientists and institutions whose work underlies this report, which will help facilitate our Statewide Climate Resilience Strategy and Coastal Resilience Plan to be presented later this year.”

For a copy of the Scientific Report on Climate Change, and more information on climate change and resilience, visit www.nj.gov/dep/climatechange/.

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