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DEP Climate Report Contradicts Christie

Date : Mon, Aug 12, 2013 at 12:04 PM


For Immediate Release

August 12, 2013

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

DEP Climate Report Contradicts Christie

While the Governor denies any link between Sandy and Climate Change the new DEP Office of Science report Climate Change in New Jersey: Trends in Temperature, Precipitation, Extreme Weather Events, and Sea Level Rise(June 2013) clearly acknowledges the connection. The report concludes:

"While it is quite difficult to attribute one particular extreme, such as a severe hurricane, to human induced climate change rather than to the natural range of variability, the increased probability of these changes occurring can be linked to changes in climate."

The report also documents increases in temperature, precipitation, and sea level rise in New Jersey and warns of severe coastal flooding by 2100. Once in a century storms and flooding could hit Atlantic City every year of two by that time. DEP cautions that New Jersey will be extremely vulnerable to these impacts due to land subsidence as a result of groundwater extraction, the topography of our coastline and erosion along it, and the high density development in these areas.

Yet as we rebuild from Hurricane Sandy much of these warnings and advice is being ignored. Instead the Governor is calling climate change "esoteric" and DEP is allowing rebuilding to move forward without requiring permits and rolling back clean energy programs.

"What this report clearly shows is that climate change is stronger than the storm. If you do not believe climate change is real and there is a threat from sea level rise than you will not take the steps to prepare New Jersey for its future impacts and future storms. While the Governor says he doesn't believe in climate change or sea level, his own scientists in his own state agency clearly show that climate change and sea level rise are not only real but are happening here in New Jersey and are only going to get worse. Unless we follow the science and plan for it, it is only going to get worse- we will see more devastation and put more people in harm's way,"
said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

In May in Lavallette Governor Christie made the following statement: "Well, first of all, I don't agree with the premise of your question because I don't think there's been any proof thus far that Sandy was caused by climate change."

Now even the DEP has joined climate scientists who acknowledge the firm connection between climate change and extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy. The climate scientists have reported that the high pressure system stuck between Canada and Greenland whose rotations allowed Sandy to make a left turn into the New Jersey coast happened because of the lack of sea ice. It is the first time that it has been reported in the Arctic in that area, which caused the high pressure system to be stuck there. The rotation of the system caused Sandy to make that unusual left turn right into New Jersey when normally storms like that would just go into sea. Also sea level rise and climate change also made the storm much worse.

Rutgers has projected that by 2050 the sea level could rise 13-22 inches and by 2100 34 to 56 inches. The DEP further found that "sea level rise will lead to more frequent and extensive coastal flooding. Warming ocean waters have the potential to strengthen storms."

The report found that winter and summers are becoming warmer in New Jersey and an increase trend in mean temperature. Eight of the ten warmest summers in New Jersey have occurred since 1999.

Precipitation and extreme weather events are increasing significantly. Since 1999 New Jersey has experienced major flooding seven years. In the past four years we have had the snowiest February, January, and October on record. In the first half of the twentieth century, the statewide average annual precipitation was less than 55 inches. In 2011 we set a record with about 64 inches. This increased precipitation in coming in shorter events.

Hurricane Sandy was the ninth such devastating storm to hit the Garden State in the last three years and the impacts of climate change will only make such storms worse. Sandy was the fourth 100-year storm to hit the Jersey Shore in the past two decades. The State Climatologist reported that having Tropical Storm Lee hit after Hurricane Irene was a once in a millennia event and having a nor'easter following Hurricane Sandy was a once in a millennia event- we have had two once in a millennia events in one decade.

Climate disruption will cause severe weather, making storms and other extreme weather events worse. We need to protect our families here in New Jersey 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.

"With all the people of New Jersey that have been devastated by the recent storms, for the Governor to try to ignore climate change is outrageous, dangerous, and puts people at risk. If we do not deal with climate change as we rebuild we will be wasting millions of dollars and putting people in harm's way said Jeff Tittel.

Instead of implementing adaptation and mitigation planning and reducing carbon pollution, the 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. The Governor cut the DEP Office of Climate Change and has stopped progress under previous administrations to implement hazard planning to address sea level rise. The Governor says he is too busy to think about climate change while making appearances on the Late Show and Morning Joe and doing reelection campaign fundraisers.

"While other states are planning for climate change and adaptation, New Jersey has dismantled programs it previously had in place. We were once a leader in adaptation planning and the Governor may deny the science but he cannot deny the facts. New Jersey one of the most vulnerable places to climate change and sea level rise and the Governor's policies are more about his national political ambitions than protecting our coast and communities from future storms," said Tittel.

Governor Christie eliminated the Office of Climate Change within in our DEP and has undone efforts under previous administrations to implement hazard planning. 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 and they have done nothing to increase protections in those areas and are making it worse. In 2005 Rutgers prepared mapping of our coast and those are the same areas that flooded. The state DEP Division of Coastal Resources had not only mapped vulnerabilities to sea level rise and storm surges but had authorized studies to the Sea Grant Consortium on the Delaware Bay and were working on adaptation and mitigation planning for coastal communities. These are the same groups that do these State of the Shore reports about how vulnerable our coast was that the Christie administration ignored.

Before Sandy the administration was supporting an application to lower dunes in Atlantic City and other places to not block a view for the casinos. The administration also supported regulations to allow beach bars that would run infrastructure through dunes impacting the dunes.

The report comes from the Office of Science which was downgraded from a Division. This is part of the administration's ongoing attack on science. Previously the Division had done award winning work. For the first time a non-scientist was put in charge. The Science Advisory Board was created to control the Office of Science and polluters have pushed to sit on the board.

"This report should be a wakeup call to the Legislature and the people of New Jersey, who should be demanding action on climate change and sea level rise. We need to first support the President's Action Plan on Climate and secondly we should be demanding that our state agencies begin doing the work they were previously doing on adaptation and mitigation and that the federal monies coming in for rebuilding should be going towards adaptation and mitigation, restoring natural systems and requiring green buildings and energy efficiency so that New Jersey will have a fighting chance," said Jeff Tittel.

Access the updated DEP report: http://www.nj.gov/dep/dsr/trends/pdfs/climate-change.pdf

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