Thursday, April 15, 2010

Climate Change in New Jersey Means...

By Katie Lukshis

New Jersey is not unique in the fact that when we experience the issues that come with climate change, we also experience impacts having to do with sea-level rise. As climate of a region changes, all aspects of that climate are consequently affected and therefore change as well.

Temperature is one of the more noticeable changes, and it has already been determined that “seasonal average temperatures across most of New Jersey are projected to rise 7°F to 12°F above historic levels in winter and 6°F to 14°F in summer by late century,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. With temperature fluctuations also comes changes in humidity and precipitation. As all of these interrelated factors are altered, they subsequently alter the intensity at which they would normally happen without increased, human-fueled amounts of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

The major consequence of global climate change that greatly affects New Jersey is the rise of sea-levels. The Nature Conservancy has provided information that predicts “sea-level rise will
make coastal development, infrastructure and residents more susceptible to inundation, erosion and flooding. An estimated 50,000 to 150,000 acres of New Jersey’s coastal areas will be lost due to inundation, and more than 100,000 acres are likely to experience coastal flooding during major storms.” With rises in sea-level comes loss of property, drinking water impacts, and recreational and tourism impacts.

Sea-level rise impacts are of most concern because of the adverse impacts that come with it. Drinking water is impacted by climate change as explained by The Nature Conservancy in two ways: as sea-levels rise, more surface water resources will increase in salinity. As droughts increase in areas, underground sources will be recharged by highly saline water, rendering it undrinkable. New Jersey’s tourism industry, “the state’s second-largest industry after pharmaceuticals,” is also at risk as beaches are degraded or destroyed by higher levels of water.

Other impacts of climate change, and therefore rising temperatures, that can and will affect New Jersey include an increase of disease-carrying pests such as mosquitoes and ticks, and impacts to our forest. New Jersey’s forests are expected to undergo a drastic change in terms of species, as many will migrate northward towards cooler climates. Another risk forests face is The Nature Conservancy’s notion that “with increased temperatures and changes in precipitation, New Jersey and other states in the Northeast are projected to experience a 10 to 20 percent increase in the risk of forest fires. This could cause increased loss of life and severe damage to wildlife habitats and real estate.”

For Further Information:

These websites provide information on greenhouse gas reduction initiatives, as well as a citizen’s guide to reducing emissions.

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