DEP PRESENTS NEW STUDY PREDICTING DRAMATIC INCREASE IN SEA-LEVEL
RISE ALONG JERSEY SHORE BY 2050; REPORT INTRODUCED AT FIRST
MEETING OF INTERAGENCY COUNCIL ON CLIMATE CHANGE
(19/P098) TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection today released a new study projecting dramatic sea-level rise in New Jersey. According to the report, sea-level in New Jersey could rise from 2000 levels by up to 1.1 feet by 2030, 2.1 feet by 2050, and 6.3 feet by 2100, underscoring the urgency of the Murphy Administration’s adaptation work to make the state more resilient to the effects of climate change. The report also shows that New Jersey has already been disproportionately affected by climate change—sea-level rise projections in New Jersey are more than two times the global average.
The Rising Seas and Changing Coastal Storms study, commissioned by DEP and prepared by Rutgers University and leading climate change experts, was released today during the first meeting of the newly formed Interagency Council on Climate Resilience. The Council, comprised of representatives from 17 state agencies and chaired by the Governor’s office, was formed by Governor Murphy’s recent Executive Order 89, which commits the state to developing and implementing a Statewide Climate Resilience Strategy. The meeting was held at DEP headquarters in Trenton. The Council will serve to facilitate a whole-of-government response to the climate crisis.
“New Jersey is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and we must work together to be more resilient against a rising sea and future storms,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “The data presented in this report will not only guide the Interagency Council’s decisions, but will also advise future generations of leaders on how to best mitigate the devastating effects of climate change.”
“New Jersey has much to lose if we do not act quickly and decisively to adapt to the realities of climate change,” DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said. “This study illustrates the sobering reality that our coastal landscape will change drastically, and we must act with urgency to ensure the long-term viability of our coastal and waterfront communities. These projections now serve as important baselines for developing policy directions, including changes to land use regulation, that New Jersey must adopt to address these challenges.”
“Sea-level rise drives some of the greatest hazards New Jersey faces from climate change. Building upon three years of on-the-ground experience since the release of Rutgers' first Science and Technical Advisory Panel sea level assessment, which was conducted for the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance, this report presents the state of the scientific understanding of sea level rise and changing coastal storms in a form designed to support state and local efforts to protect New Jersey's coastal communities,” said lead author Robert Kopp, a climate scientist and director of the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “As the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers is proud to bring our expertise to bear to advance climate action in our state.”
Report Findings: Sea-Level Rise Scenarios*
*New Jersey Sea-Level Rise above year 2000 baseline in feet. Adapted from STAP
Sea-level rise projections for New Jersey from 2000 to 2150 under the low, moderate, and high emissions scenarios. The likely range represents the range of projections between which there is a 66% chance that sea-level rise will occur. This figure is adopted from values presented in Table 1 of the STAP Report. (Kopp et al. 2019).
The report available at https://www.nj.gov/dep/climatechange/ examines a variety of scenarios based on differing greenhouse-gas emission rates. The likely sea-level rise under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario – consistent with current global greenhouse gas emissions trends – projects sea-level rise to range from 2.3 feet to as much as 6.3 feet by 2100.
A moderate scenario, if current policy objectives around the globe are successfully implemented, ranges from 2 feet to 5.1 feet. A low emissions scenario, if temperature targets in the 2015 Paris Climate Treaty were met, projects sea-level rise ranging from 1.7 feet to 3.9 feet.
While the frequency of tropical and extratropical cyclones (i.e. nor’easters) may not change drastically, the report notes that wind speeds and precipitation rates from these storms are likely to increase, although this issue needs more study. The study also suggests that storm tracks may change as global warming intensifies.
Over the last 40 years, sea-level rose an average of 0.2 inch per year along the state’s coast, compared to a global average of 0.1 inch per year. The study also notes that the frequency of routine tidal flooding not associated with specific storms has increased, from an average of less than one event in Atlantic City between 1950 and 1960 to an average of eight events per year between 2007 and 2016 – and a high of 18 events in 2009. By 2100, high-tide cycle flooding could become a regular occurrence, at 240 days per year.
As part of its evaluation, Rutgers determined that sea-level from 1911 (the beginning of tide-gauge record-keeping) at Atlantic City has risen 17.6 inches, compared to 7.6 inches globally. Moreover, sea-level has risen 8.2 inches over the past 40 years at Atlantic City, compared to an average 4.3 inches globally.
New Jersey’s Leadership on Climate Change
The Murphy Administration has made addressing climate change a priority for the state. Governor Murphy joined the US Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of states committed to the Paris Climate Treaty goals in the absence of federal leadership and precipitated by the Trump Administration’s decision to remove the U.S. from the international Paris accord.
In October, on the 7th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 89, which directs the state, through the DEP, to develop a Statewide Climate Change Strategy to guide decisions and policies across state government.
The executive order also formed a Climate and Flood Resilience Program within the DEP and created the Interagency Council on Climate Resilience to promote the long-term mitigation, adaptation and resilience of New Jersey’s economy, communities, infrastructure and natural resources.
Further demonstrating the Governor’s commitment to addressing climate change, New Jersey has re-entered the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which works to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from the energy sector. The state also is working on initiatives to reduce emissions from vehicles, which account for more than 40 percent of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emission. In addition, the Administration has launched various initiatives to make coastal and urban areas more resilient to flooding and sea-level rise and has been providing planning tools to assist local governments.
Global warming is caused by emissions of excessive greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, building up in the atmosphere and preventing the escape of heat from the sun. Sea-level rise results primarily from the thermal expansion of ocean water resulting from warmer temperatures and the melting of glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets. Scientists concur that global warming is related to human activities, such as power plant and industrial emissions and motor vehicle emissions.
New Jersey is particularly susceptible to the impacts of rising oceans due to its long coastline, the long-term natural sinking of land through subsidence, its latitudinal position in relation to the bulging of oceans caused by the earth’s rotation, ocean circulation patterns and other factors.
About the Report
The New Jersey’s Rising Seas and Changing Coastal Storm report stems from work begun in 2015 by Rutgers’ New Jersey Science and Technical Advisory Panel on Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Storms. This panel issued a report in 2016 to offer insights on science that can be used to guide state and local planning and decision making. The DEP commissioned Rutgers to further evaluate the most current data and scientific understanding of sea-level rise in light of the importance of this issue to the state.
Key updates include the addition of historical sea-level rise information for New Jersey, consideration of the latest information related to ice-sheet melting and its impacts on sea-level rise, and an assessment of increased tidal flooding caused by sea-level rise. It also evaluates New Jersey’s specific susceptibility to the effects of sea-level rise.
The study team was comprised of leading experts and coastal researchers from DEP, Rutgers University, the U.S. Geological Survey, Columbia University, the Barnegat Bay Partnership, Rowan University, Princeton University, the Stevens Institute of Technology, Drexel University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Jacques Cousteau Coastal Education Center, the New Jersey Association of Flood Plain Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Funding was provided through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
For a copy of the report and report summary, visit www.nj.gov/dep/climatechange/resilience.html.
For more information on climate change and resilience from the DEP, visit www.nj.gov/dep/climatechange/