An Unfamiliar State: Local Impacts of Global Warming in New Jersey

Released by: Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center

Global warming poses a serious threat to the future of New Jersey’s environment, economy, and the health and welfare of its citizens.

Global warming will impact every corner of the state. If global warming pollution across the world continues to rise, New Jersey will be a different place in 100 years, with an altered coastline, greater extremes of rainfall and drought, higher levels of smog in parts of the state, and shifts in the plant and animal species that call New Jersey home.

If we act now, there is still time to prevent many of the worst impacts of global warming. New Jersey must do its share to reduce global warming pollution and set an example for other states and the nation to follow.

Scientists foresee increased warming over the next century and beyond, with consequences for the environment, the economy and human health

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading authority on the science of global warming, projects that world average temperatures will increase by another 3 to 7° F above late 20th century levels by the end of this century, depending on future emissions of global warming pollutants. At the highest emission scenario evaluated by the IPCC, estimates of warming range between 4.3 and 11.5° F.
  • World average sea level could be expected to rise by another 11 to 17 inches over the next century, with the magnitude dependent on future emissions. At the highest emission scenario evaluated, sea level rise could be between 10 and 23 inches. These estimates do not include the potential for accelerated breakup of the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets, which would cause a more dramatic rise in sea level.
  • Snow and ice cover will continue to contract, heat waves will become more frequent and severe, and hurricanes will likely become stronger.

If unchecked, global warming will affect every corner of New Jersey in the coming century

  • The Shore: Inundated boardwalks, receding beaches. A global warming-induced sea-level rise of 16 to 31 inches (within the range of what scientists forecast for New Jersey) could inundate low-lying lands along the Shore, including much of the city of Wildwood, turning North Wildwood into an island. At the same time, sea level rise could cause Cape May Beach and other shore beaches to erode between 160 and 500 feet.
  • New York City Metro Area: Vital infrastructure under threat. Sea-level rise puts New Jersey’s vital transportation links with New York City and the world at greater threat of flooding during severe storms. Higher seas could put the Holland Tunnel at risk of flooding with up to 3 feet of water every five years. Newark Airport, the Lincoln Tunnel and key highway links would also be increasingly vulnerable to flooding. Scientists estimate that increased flooding could triple the amount of flood damage faced by the region in an average year, with a maximum one-time loss of $250 billion possible from a direct impact by a Category 4 hurricane.
  • Urban New Jersey: More heat-related deaths. By 2050, the number of days in Newark with high temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit could more than quadruple, rising to 60 out of 92 days. As a result, the number of heatrelated deaths per summer in Newark could rise more than five-fold.
  • Suburban New Jersey: Worsened smog pollution. More frequent heat waves will increase the levels of smog pollution, especially in suburban counties. The number of smog-related deaths, a benchmark for more widespread damage to public health, could increase by more than 6 percent in Mercer, Somerset, Hunterdon and Ocean counties.
  • Highlands and Pinelands Agriculture: Longer growing seasons, more threats to crop health. Corn farmers in Warren County and blueberry farmers in the Pinelands could benefit from longer growing seasons, but their crops will face greater heat stress, more variable water supplies and increased pest populations.
  • The Delaware Valley: More dangerous floods. Global warming could cause more extreme weather events, much like the four huge rainstorms that struck the Delaware River Valley between July 2004 and June 2006. These four storms damaged or destroyed more than 51 dams, flooded thousands of homes and caused more than $150 million in property damage. The large northeaster that hit New Jersey in April 2007 also provided a glimpse of the impact of extreme weather, submerging Manville under Raritan River floodwaters for three days and forcing 3,000 people to evacuate from their homes.
  • Camden: Water supply at risk. As sea level rise pushes the mixing zone between salty and fresh water higher up the Delaware River, saltwater could invade the aquifers where Camden gets its drinking water.
  • Delaware Bay: Reduced numbers of migratory birds. Rising temperatures could harm migratory bird species like the Red Knot, which is famous for its annual migrations from Chile to the Arctic. Every year, Red Knots and other migratory birds stop in Delaware Bay just in time for Horseshoe Crab spawning, feasting on crab eggs to refuel. Changing temperatures could provoke earlier migration or altered timing of spawning, reducing the availability of food and accelerating the decline of the species.
  • The Pinelands: More attacks from the Southern Pine Beetle. In 2001 the Southern Pine Beetle re-entered New Jersey after an absence of more than 60 years. The beetle has now infested more than 2,000 acres of forest, including areas in the New Jersey Pinelands. Warmer temperatures will help the beetle spread further north, likely contributing to a shift in the types of trees that will grow in the Pinelands.

There is still time to prevent the worst impacts of global warming, but we must act quickly

To prevent the worst impacts of global warming, New Jersey and the rest of the United States must stabilize global warming emissions at or below today’s levels by the end of the decade and reduce emissions by at least 15 to 20 percent by 2020 and at least 80 percent by 2050. To accomplish these goals, New Jersey should:

  • Establish a statewide cap on global warming pollution. The cap should reduce New Jersey’s total global warming pollution by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. It should cover all sectors of New Jersey’s economy and require legally binding emission reductions.
  • Create a long-term global warming action plan. The action plan should map out how New Jersey plans to reach an 80 percent reduction in global warming emissions by 2050. It should include policies prohibiting the construction of any new coal-fired power plants; requiring all electricity imported to New Jersey from the regional electricity grid to meet state emissions standards; efficiency measures such as energy efficiency standards for public utilities, combined heat and power and demand response initiatives; doubling funding for New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program; deploying wind power off New Jersey’s coast; requiring developers to provide solar energy as an option for all new homeowners; increasing transit and rail freight options; reducing vehicle miles traveled; restraining urban and exurban sprawl; and reducing global warming emissions from cars, trucks and other vehicles.
  • Call on federal leaders to implement policies to reduce global warming pollution. New Jersey should ask leaders in Congress and the White House to commit to reducing global warming emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Important steps toward this goal include increasing federal automobile fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon within 10 years and creating a federal renewable energy standard requiring 20 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from clean, renewable sources of energy like wind and solar power by 2020.