NJ Climate Adaptation Alliance offers recommendations to help NJ better prepare for climate change

June 26, 2014

Calls for establishment of statewide working group to address those most at risk

Photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, New Jersey Air National Guard

Photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, New Jersey Air National Guard

A mix of policymakers, public and private sector practitioners, academics, nongovernmental organizations and business leaders has issued recommendations to help New Jersey better prepare for and adapt to climate change.

The New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance calls for establishment of a statewide working group to, among other things, identify populations, geographic areas and physical infrastructure that are most at risk to a changing climate using consistent integration of the latest science about a changing climate and its impact into state and local decision-making.  The alliance, whose activities are coordinated by Rutgers, also recommends that critical habitat, public water and wastewater systems, transportation infrastructure and agricultural lands be assessed for risk from climate change and that a comprehensive statewide climate public health strategy needs to be developed.

“These recommendations represent a common sense approach to preparing for a changing climate in New Jersey,” said alliance co-chair Kathleen Ellis, chief operating officer of New Jersey Natural Gas. “The recommendations lay out a clear and systematic approach that the state can take to ensure we protect our people, places and assets from a changing climate.”

The group acknowledges that while important climate change adaptation and preparedness efforts are already under way here, much work still needs to be done.“New Jersey has a clear choice. We can take the types of measures outlined in the report now or we can pay the price later. Climate change impacts so many aspects of life in New Jersey, from the health of our residents to the health of our communities’ infrastructure,” said alliance co-chair Michael Catania. Catania is executive director of Duke Farms, which is hosting the Duke Farms Dialogues, “Framing Climate Change.” The program featured co-directors of the Rutgers Climate Institute, Robin Leichenko, professor of geography, and Anthony Broccoli, professor of atmospheric science.

The alliance report focused on such key sectors and statewide issues as agriculture; built infrastructure (transportation, energy and telecommunications); coastal communities; emergency management; environmental justice; natural resources; public health; social services; and water resources. Among the overarching recommendations:

  • Integrate science-based standards into state policies, programs and regulations, and direct that actions consistent with the statewide policy be taken by state agencies, regional and local planning authorities and commissions, municipal and county government. Example: Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of policies and regulations governing New Jersey’s coastal zone in light of identified risks to a changing climate.
  • Implement standards, regulations and policies that apply a risk management approach to identify people, places and assets (including natural resources) most at risk to climate stressors and direct investment to risk reduction efforts and uses that are compatible with a changing climate. Example: Require that all public water supply and public wastewater utilities develop, implement and periodically update plans for the identification and mitigation of natural and other risks to facility operations.
  • Rely on existing governance structures and programs to the greatest extent possible, and build partnerships with community-based organizations as a means to integrate climate change adaptation and preparedness rather than create new programs. Example: Analyze and determine how to effectively plan for debris management during disasters and storms.
  • Pursue opportunities to participate in regional and multistate regulatory and nonregulatory initiatives that not only significantly reduce emissions through creation of markets for low-carbon energy, transportation and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions but also that generate revenue to invest in strategies to address emissions impacts by enhancing climate change preparedness and adaptation. Example: New Jersey should take a fresh look at options to achieve the mandates of the newly proposed federal rule on power plant emissions and meeting its own requirements under the Global Warming Response Act. Generated revenue from a compliance plan consistent with the newly proposed EPA rule can be dedicated to projects supporting climate change preparedness throughout the state. These would include restoration and stewardship of sensitive tidal marshes, forests and green infrastructure, and preparedness projects in urban communities.
  • Promote education, training, outreach and innovative partnerships to better inform the public, decision makers and practitioners about the effects of climate change and adaptation strategies to increase the state’s readiness and ability to respond to such change. Example: Improve statewide and local emergency response communication protocols to ensure timely community communication about potential risks, including potential effects of hazards such as contaminated floodwaters from raw sewage oil and other hazardous substances, as well as natural gas leaks and electrically charged wires during extreme weather events.
  • Undertake analyses and research to inform climate adaptation and preparedness practices at the state, regional and local levels of governance. Example: Analyze the extent to which all-hazards planning within health care organizations is incorporating consideration of climate change impacts.

The full report is available at http://njadapt.rutgers.edu/resources/njcaa-reports. For more information, contact Marjorie Kaplan, 848-932-5739 or kaplan@envsci.rutgers.edu, or Jeanne Herb, 848-932-2725 or jherb@ejb.rutgers.edu.

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