New Jersey continues to recover from the heartbreaking damage of Hurricane Sandy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families impacted by this tragedy.
This is the ninth such devastating storm to hit the Garden State in the last five years and the impacts of climate change will only make such storms worse. We have had hurricanes and Halloween snow storms. There have been too many coincidences. You cannot deny that climate disruption is a factor and it is impacting New Jersey.
We need to protect our families from the impacts of climate disruption and sea level rise. In New Jersey we deserve strong action by our leaders to help reduce the likelihood and severity of future disasters.
Hurricane Sandy is our worst fears come true. This is exactly the kind of storm climate scientists and environmentalists warned about and now we have seen firsthand the impacts from these types of storms. We are concerned that without real policy changes such storms will not only continue to happen but will get much worse.
The areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy are the areas we have said for a long time are most vulnerable for flooding and storm surges. Yet we have done nothing to increase protections in those areas. Climate scientist and environmentalists have been worried for years about overdevelopment on barrier islands along our coasts. Given climate change and sea level rise these areas are even more vulnerable to hurricanes such as Sandy.
A study by Rutgers University four years ago found that given the storm surges as a result of climate change, 9% of New Jersey’s land area could be under water. Some of these areas are the fastest growing places in New Jersey. Other places are critical infrastructure for the state such as Newark Airport, nuclear power plants, electrical generation plants, sewer plants, chemical plants, and transportation hubs. Even Meadowlands Stadium could be underwater. One day when the Giants play the Dolphins, they could be real dolphins. We have failed to protect this vital infrastructure, including drinking water intakes and sewer plants from storm surges.
Climate disruption worsens extreme weather, threatening our families and communities. Scientists agree that climate change can cause rain and snowstorms, drought periods, and wildfires to become more severe.
Yet our Governor is rolling back policies that reduce climate change pollution and promote clean energy alternatives. Governor Christie is moving New Jersey in the wrong direction when it comes to climate change by pulling us out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and cutting clean energy funding. He has eliminated the Office of Climate Change in DEP to study the impacts of climate change and help develop plans to combat them.
New Jersey is a coastal state and sees the most severe impacts of these storms. Instead of reducing greenhouse gases and pollution and protecting low lying areas from flooding we are doing the opposite and weakening the protections we currently have in place.
As we burn dirty fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, large amounts of greenhouse gas pollution such as carbon dioxide and methane are released into the air, increasing average temperatures across the world. Governor Christie has supported and heavily subsidized the construction of three new natural gas plants in New Jersey as well as allowing a number of new major pipeline expansion projects to be approved through environmentally sensitive and densely populated areas. He has also backed the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line which will bring in more coal-fired power from Pennsylvania.
We need clean energy solutions to combat climate disruption and ease the severe consequences of these extreme storms. Instead of moving us toward a clean energy economy, the Governor has pulled us out of RGGI, jeopardizing clean energy funding and green jobs. Governor Christie has taken over $600 million in clean energy funds, and last year he took $63 million dollars of funding from RGGI to balance his budget. The Governor’s revised Energy Master Plan reduces our renewable energy goals from 30% to 22.5% in favor of more fossil fuels, contributing to climate change pollution.
As we continue to understand the devastation and impacts of Hurricane Sandy we are going to need to change things in New Jersey. Such storms will happen more frequently and be our future unless make some tough decisions.
In addition to relief aid we need our leaders to come up with better polices to address the impacts of flooding and climate change on our coast and flood prone areas. It is going to take partnership and difficult choices on limiting development in flood prone areas, moving people out of harm’s way and developing real comprehensive programs to reduce greenhouse gases and protect us from climate change and sea level rise.