New Jersey’s Climate Crisis

The Garden State is bearing the brunt of the global climate emergency

August 26, 2019

1:32 pm

New Jersey has always punched above its weight. The USA’s fourth-smallest state — an early adopter of even the idea of the USA (third to join the new nation) — and most densely populated state (#1), is today one of its wealthiest (#2), best educated (#2 pre-k-12), right at the top for biotechnology strength (#2), and most broadband-wise connected (#1).

But a new study has found that the Garden State is now also leading the nation in some dubious categories when it comes to the climate crisis — and is woefully unprepared for not only a far-off cataclysmic event, but also for very likely circumstances that will pose great challenges for its citizens.

The study, “How Climate Change Will Impact Major Cities Across the U.S.” (released earlier this month by an online real-estate platform), looked at “risk and readiness scores for extreme climate events,” such as extreme temperatures, flood, drought, and sea-level rise) for close to 300 of the country’s largest cities. The study’s analyst found “that the cities that are most vulnerable to climate disasters happen to also be the least prepared for managing those catastrophes.”

And two of those cities near the top of the list are in New Jersey: Newark and Jersey City. In fact, Newark “in particular is among the most vulnerable metropolises.” The state’s largest city placed in the top five nationally of cities “likely to be compromised by an extreme cold event — a high ‘probability of six consecutive days in which the temperature falls below the 10th percentile of a city’s baseline period between 1950-1999’ — which can also be triggered by climate change. Newark is also among the top five cities likely to experience extreme heat and sea-level rise impacts, both by 2040.”

Meanwhile, an exhaustive investigative report by the Washington Post that “analyzed decades of local temperature records and identified a variety of hot spots where warming has proceeded more quickly” has again found New Jersey in an unenviable position near the top. “A century of climbing temperatures has changed the character of the Garden State,” the report noted.

“New Jersey may seem an unlikely place to measure climate change,” noted the Post, “but it is one of the fastest-warming states in the nation. Its average temperature has climbed by close to 2 degrees Celsius since 1895 — double the average for the Lower 48 states.” And it is worth noting that 2 degrees Celsius is the universal red-alert measure so notably utilized in the Paris Climate Agreement that activists and scientists are warning we need, collectively, to stay below, globally, to avoid disaster.

A bit of perspective here: if New Jersey is in trouble, the entire USA is in trouble. But it’s worth noting that the climate crisis is local — it isn’t just a challenge for far off places in other countries. It’s right in our own backyard.

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