Global climate change is inevitable and its impact on New Jersey will be substantial over the next few decades, the Murphy administration argues, and the state needs to take concrete steps to mitigate the effects of the increasing frequency of extreme weather patterns.
Under an executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy Tuesday morning – his 89th since taking office, which coincided with the seven-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy – New Jersey would develop a statewide resilience plan to gauge how that could be accomplished.
The newly formed Climate and Flood Resilience Program would look at the myriad of weather patterns brought about by climate change that could affect the state and what types of action, including infrastructure upgrades, the state should take.
Those effects range from rising sea levels, heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall and ensuing floods, an increase of mosquito-borne illnesses brought about by longer periods of warmer weather, and a greater frequency of Superstorm Sandy-style hurricanes.
“Climate change is not coming, it is already here,” Murphy said in Hoboken, which was devastated by Sandy along with Weehawken and Jersey City. Flooding during the October 2012 storm turned much of the area into a chain of islands, leaving thousands of residents stranded and in need of rescue from emergency officials.
“We cannot resign ourselves to the ideas that we would just wait it out to the next storm and expect billions of dollars and insurance claims and federal assistance to allow us to rebuild,” Murphy added. “We need to make sure that our communities and infrastructure are more resilient.”
To address rising sea levels,which would hammer New Jersey’s hundreds of miles of Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay coastline, the state would also have to develop a coastal resilience plan.
“We may see sea levels rise as much as two feet by the middle of this century,” Murphy added. “We are losing acres of wetlands along [the] Delaware” to rising tides and “eroding land.”
The program will be headed by a chief resilience officer – Murphy selected longtime Department of Environmental Protection staffer David Rosenblatt, who makes $125,000 according to public records.
An Interagency Council on Climate Resilience comprised of 16 executive agencies within the Murphy administration will also head the program alongside Rosenblatt. They will have six months to fully gauge the exact impact on the state from climate change, and until Sept. 1, 2020 to put out their first report of recommendations. That report would have to be updated every two years with any new scientific data that might become available.
Hoboken was chosen as the site of the Tuesday press conference specifically because of its resiliency plan following Sandy. The newer parks being constructed are designed to hold massive amounts of water during storms that might otherwise flood the city.
“We are taking a proactive approach to climate change by making Hoboken resilient to flooding events that are likely to increase due to climate change,” Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla said Tuesday.