Human-made gas emissions are speeding up sea level rise around New Jersey and, in tandem with coastal storms, will cause more frequent flooding for decades to come, according to a new report by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Rutgers University.
“Climate change is the single-biggest environmental challenge that we face, not only in New Jersey, but around the nation and the globe,” said state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe.
Rutgers scientists behind the report, released Thursday, said their work aims to help New Jersey communities prepare for changing coastal conditions and more precipitation.
Sea level has risen around New Jersey by about 1.5 feet between 1911 and 2019, while global sea level rose about half that, according to the report.
“Sea level is rising more in New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic than in other parts of the globe,” said Jeanne Herb, executive director of environmental analysis at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy at Rutgers. “New Jersey’s sort of ground zero.”
As sea level is rising due to warming global temperature and melting polar ice sheets, the tectonic plate that supports the mid-Atlantic region is also sinking, said Herb.
New Jersey will experience “a tremendous impact from climate change on our economy, on our residents, on our communities,” she said.
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According to projections by Rutgers available on NJFloodMapper.org, a 1-foot increase in sea level would submerge portions of Cattus Island County Park in Toms River, affect some low lying bayfront sections of Brick and Toms River, and begin to drown protective marshland on the mainland side of Ocean County.
A 2-foot increase in sea level would submerge streets and some properties in Ocean Gate, flood blocks of Point Pleasant Beach and leave portions of Highlands and Keansburg under water.
Rutgers’ report predicts sea level will rise between 1.4 and 3.1 feet from 2000 levels by 2070, if current greenhouse gas emissions remain about the same in coming decades.
Matt Campo, a researcher in environmental analysis at the Bloustein School, said the new report provides three different sea level rise scenarios, each one tailored to whether greenhouse gas emissions stay consistent, are placed under strict limits, or increase in the future. If emissions increase, researchers predict New Jersey could experience a sea level rise of 3.5 feet by 2070.
The report also says the speed at which the water is rising is increasing over time.
McCabe, the DEP commissioner, said the report’s findings showed “pretty sobering realities and challenges,” but said the science would help shape future state permitting rules governing development in coastal areas.
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