On December 12, 2019, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) held the first meeting of the Interagency Council on Climate Change, a panel created by Executive Order 89 issued by Governor Murphy.  At that meeting, NJDEP released a study prepared by Rutgers University and leading climate change experts which found that New Jersey has experienced in the past – and will experience in the future – much greater impacts from sea level rise than on average around the globe.  The report also notes the likelihood of increased frequency of tidal flooding and more significant impacts from coastal storms.  Because of our location and extensive coast line, New Jersey has been by some likened to “ground zero” for climate change.

What does all this mean?

The Interagency Council is directed to develop a Statewide Climate Change Strategy.  The conclusions of the Rutgers report demonstrate further why both the development and implementation of this strategy must proceed as quickly as possible.  The strategy should include changes in regulations to ensure that future development is resilient and takes sea level rise into account; that programs and resources are put in place to increase the resiliency of existing development; and that ongoing steps are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Commitments should be made to invest in infrastructure to ameliorate sea level rise impacts, while at the same time preserving coastal marshlands and other natural areas that are protective of climate change impacts.  Businesses, municipalities, citizen groups and all concerned citizens should become active in helping to shape and implement this strategy.

The conclusions of the report are sobering to say the least.   Sea level rise along the New Jersey coast is projected to be an additional 1.3 to 2.7 feet by 2070 even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced globally.  The time to prepare is now.