Climate Change Adaption in NJ

By: R. Theodora Appleton

Twitter @theapples_816

SLR-Sandy-Hook-NJ_2

Photo taken from Google Images (NDAA)

“When you explain to someone that in the year 2100 their house will be underwater, how does he or she react?” asked Andrew Schlesinger, SEBS graduate student.

“Well, some people do get really angry” answered Dr. Marjorie Kaplan, associate director of Rutgers Climate Institute. “Recent flood insurance rate maps are reclassifying properties. They are getting frustrated because climate change is affecting them financially. ”

However, “there are citizens that do want to further understand their risk and plan for the future of businesses and homes from rising sea level because of climate change,” said Kaplan.

On Wednesday Jan. 27th, Dr. Kaplan gave a lecture called “Climate Change Adaption in NJ” at the Cook/Douglas lecture hall. Kaplan explained to her audience what ways climate change is affecting NJ, how the state is trying to adapt and what prevention methods are being taken for the future.

At an early age, Kaplan discovered a strong appreciation for nature. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies, her need to address the ways of balance between humans and the environment became apparent, she said in an email interview.

Kaplan worked with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for over twenty years and prior to that she was in the private sector for 10 years. She currently is the Associate Director of the Rutgers Climate Institute

The Climate Institute includes ninety-give Rutgers faculty members from a plethora of scientific concentrations ranging from natural sciences to social sciences.

“Climate Change Adaption in NJ” is one of several talks in the Common Lecture Series, hosted by the Landscape Architecture Program.

If you haven’t heard of the landscape architecture major, it is an up and coming program that deals with how social and natural structures interact in the environment, said Gail McKenzie, event coordinator and administrative assistant.

This major is a good choice for anyone who is interested in the environment and architecture, said Joe Tidona, SEBS junior. “After I finish my major, I plan on working as a landscape designer.”

Landscape architects are interested in designing in a way that supports ecological and environmental health. The climate change adaption lecture directly correlates with their interests, which is why it is a requirement for their classes, said McKenzie.

Not only did this talk address the concerns of landscape designers, agriculturists and environmentalists, but also spoke to the interest of every citizen in New Jersey.

Thankfully, climate change is more widely accepted as a phenomenon now then ever before.

Surprisingly enough, there are still people who believe it doesn’t exist. Kaplan’s response to the individuals that question if global warming is real is “there is an enormous body of scientific, peer-reviewed literature and scholarship that supports the fact that climate change exists.

“Everyone knows about climate change, of course it is real, everyone has to know about it…” Tidona said.

We can see climate change occurring by observing the 4 mm annual increase to sea levels, by observing the 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit increase of temperatures and the increase in precipitation and droughts globally, explained Kaplan.

Kaplan explained that with warming temperatures and higher humidity, we expect to see more northward expansion of species of weeds, pests and pathogens that had not been able to survive in our region before.  With climate change, cooler season crops like potatoes, broccoli, and spinach may have a shorter growing season, while warmer season crops like peppers, melon or tomatoes, may have a longer growing season.

The unfortunate reality about climate change is that it would take decades, hundreds or even thousands of years to get rid of the exorbitant amount of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. “Even if we stop using fossil fuels, and stop driving all of our cars today, the CO2 in the atmosphere endures for a very long time. We need to prepare to adapt,” said Kaplan.

Many states in the Northeast have incorporated climate change legislature, yet NJ has not jumped on the green bandwagon completely.

Even though NJ does not have a law that mandates the state to develop a climate adaptation plan, there are groups like the “NJ Climate Adaption Alliance” that are working to help foster climate preparedness in NJ,” explained Kaplan

One way to prevent and lessen climate change is to reduce our carbon footprint, starting with using less fossil fuel. Understanding the causes and impacts of climate change is essential and Rutgers plays a key role through its research and education, said Kaplan.

“Students should start to use public transportation more often, buy locally sourced foods, recycle, reduce his or her energy consumption and stay informed.”

“The university has tons of classes on climate change. We are utilizing clean energy with solar panels. But what we need is a stronger push towards renewable energy. We can do more,” said Tidona.

Members of the NJ Climate Adaptation Alliance which includes businesses, non-profits, and regional and local government organizations, along with Rutgers, are working together to help NJ better able to prepare for a changing climate,” said Kaplan.

There’s a lot of politics to be worked out, but having powerful institutions like Rutgers will help the state get on track.

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