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What the Rutgers Climate Institute Can Achieve
Rutgers is pooling its expertise to focus on the effects of climate change at home and around the globe.
Climate change is emerging as the top environmental issue of the 21st century. Globally, regionally, and locally, changes in our climate are already apparent, affecting all cultures and ecosystems, and changes will become more profound in the coming decades. The magnitude of future climate change is largely dependent upon our energy consumption choices from this day forward. Yet, because of our past greenhouse gas emissions, we are already committed to significant changes in Earth's climate over the next 50 years. The rate of sea level rise has been accelerating and is now a little bit more than twice as large as the 20th century global average and expected to increase. Because of rising sea levels, coastal storms yield more flooding today than similar storms just 50 years ago. Increased heat and extremes in precipitation (too much or too little) threaten human health, agriculture, fisheries, forests, water resources, the built environment, terrestrial and aquatic species and coastlines.
Adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change will require the cooperation of individuals, corporations, and governments worldwide. While a growing number of organizations have begun to recognize and acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic climate change, many questions remain: How much will the climate change both globally and locally? How will our environment, ecosystems, and infrastructure be affected? How can communities, states, and nations best prepare and adapt for the changes ahead? To what degree does climate change factor into extreme events like Hurricane Irene or Hurricane sandy and what can we expect in the future for our region? As a densely populated coastal state, New Jersey provides an excellent laboratory for fundamental and applied research, education and outreach that will have global utility.
Rutgers is a longstanding leader in environmental research and education, and is therefore uniquely poised to address these questions with both breadth and depth. The Rutgers Climate Institute is a university-wide effort that brings together faculty members from a wide range of disciplines--from oceanography to sociology-- and so by its very nature it is designed to foster innovative research and education with the broad perspective necessitated by the urgency of climate issues.
Rutgers Climate Institute is guided by these goals:
- To understand the mechanisms that drive global and regional climate change;
- To understand the human and social dimensions of climate change, including how social, economic, political, cultural, and behavioral factors drive climate change, shape vulnerabilities, and condition response strategies;
- To study the impacts of climate change, particularly its effects on densely populated, coastal regions;
- To inform and educate society about the causes and consequences of climate change.
The Rutgers Climate Institute’s aim is to facilitate partnerships, programs and innovative multidisciplinary research and education. Support for the Rutgers Climate Institute enables the development of such partnerships and programs, allowing graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty to address cutting-edge issues that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. Such interdisciplinary collaboration is increasingly important so that Rutgers can provide the knowledge base for assessing New Jersey's vulnerability to climate change and the appropriate responses to adaptation planning in a variety of sectors including: public health, built infrastructure, agriculture, natural resources, coastal communities, freshwater systems and water supply. Rutgers Climate Institute support also enables curriculum development at the undergraduate and graduate levels that will integrate the natural and social sciences.
Another area of development within the Rutgers Climate Institute is education and workforce development, ranging from lesson planning and teacher training for K-12 education, to enhancing undergraduate education to working with business leaders to anticipate the impacts of a changing climate on their operations. Support for Rutgers Climate Institute enables us to continue to participate in community engagement with civic leaders, high school students, garden clubs, planners, government officials, industry officials, and citizens from throughout the state and region. Workshops often help to ground our research, ensuring that the work we are doing is relevant to the end users of climate information. They also enable the individuals responsible for setting policies to be well-informed. Finally, support for the Rutgers Climate Institute enables us to bring visiting scholars to Rutgers who can expose our students, faculty and community to new and different viewpoints and help to identify new research directions.