Effects of climate change

The 130 mi. (209 km.) long, densely developed shoreline of New Jersey is particularly vulnerable to significant storm events such as hurricanes and the often more powerful Nor'easters. With rising sea levels, an extensive population will be increasingly vulnerable to these storms in the future. Much of the developed shoreline is built on barrier islands, giant sandbars that occasionally breach into the backside bays during the most intense storms. Although there is a substantial coastal infrastructure of bulkheads and sea walls, much of the valuable coastal real estate, including high-rise casinos and recreational beaches, could be severely damaged in the event of severe storms. In 1962, a Nor'easter, known as the Ash Wednesday Storm, destroyed 45,000 homes. The state is also frequently hit by moderate hurricanes, though they are typically less powerful than those that hit the southern United States.

The federal government heavily subsidizes the protection of the densely developed New Jersey coast. Taxpayers, through the Army Corps of Engineers, pay for shoreline erosion and beach replenishment programs. New Jersey's current plans for beach sand replenishment will cost about $60 million per mile, with a 50-year total of $9 billion. Many property owners also get subsidized insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. Storms often result in the use of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to rebuild in the same place, without important property modifications such as sand dunes and other shoreline protection infrastructure. FEMA suggests that a 1 ft. (30 cm.) sea-level rise on the northeast coast could raise flood insurance premiums.

Changes to temperature, sea level, and water regimes in New Jersey could affect its most important and unique ecosystems. Temperature increases and rainfall declines could make the Pine Barrens area on the outer coastal plains and the skylands area of the mountainous northwest more prone to catastrophic fires or biological invasion. This could affect rare and endangered species like the Pine Barrens tree frog. Sea level rise could cause salt water intrusion into freshwater wetlands, significantly affecting marine and avian species. The New Jersey landscape has been shaped by global change in the past, with the devastating unintended introductions of Chestnut Blight and Dutch Elm disease. Some of the most serious invasive species threatening New Jersey ecosystems today are the Asian Long Horn Beetle, Hemlock Woolly Adel-gid, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Chinese Bush Clover. Climate change could make New Jersey habitats even more welcoming to these invasive species. The increase in temperatures may be responsible for expanding the habitat for mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue, West Nile Virus, and malaria into urban areas. With an extensive area paved over and urbanized, New Jersey has many areas that have a blackbody-effect that keeps them warmer at night. Climate change will also likely cause increases in ground-level ozone levels in the congested areas of the state.

A 2007 legislative bill in New Jersey requires that state greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050. New Jersey is also a participant in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Emission Initiative, a 10-state program that is the first CO2 cap and trade program in the United States. In addition, leading some of the state universities to adopt groundbreaking greenhouse gas policies, Governor John Corzine has also proposed a Governors' Climate Protection Leadership Council. A large number of New Jersey mayors have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Activists in the state have organized the annual New Jersey Climate March.

see also: Atlantic Ocean; Greenhouse Gases, Gulf Stream; Hurricanes and Typhoons; New York; Princeton University; Regulation.

bibliography. Climate Choices, "Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, 2007," www.climatechoices.org (cited November 2007); R.G. Najjar, et al., "The Potential Impacts of Climate Change on the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Region" Climate Research (v.14, 2000).

DUSTIN MULVANEY University of California, Santa Cruz

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