News in October 2017
The U.S. Government Accountability Office released Climate Change: Information on Potential Economic Effects Could Help Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Fiscal Exposure detailing the potential economic effects of climate change as well as economic damages that have already occurred, as reported by NBC news. According to the report, the federal government has spent an estimated $350 billion over the past decade in response to extreme weather and fire events, which have been found to be exacerbated by climate change. The report recommends the President of the United States use this information to identify risks and craft an appropriate federal response.
Congratulations to RCI affiliate Ethan Schoolman on winning the Campus Sustainability Research Award for outstanding achievements and progress toward sustainability from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Schoolman authored a study which found that millennial students currently enrolled at a major public university, while broadly supportive of public transportation, recycling, and conserving energy and water, are much less interested in incorporating environmental concerns into decisions about food and in actively reducing their consumption of material things and that despite sizeable investments in sustainability intiatives and environmental programs at the one public institution studied (University of Michigan), there is little evidence that undergraduate students are becoming more committed to sustainability as a result of their time on campus. In fact, student willingness to recycle and conserve natural resources may be highly dependent on the institutional conveniences of campus life, and it was not clear that students would continue such practices once these conveniences had disappeared. Schoolman notes that large schools like U of Michigan and Rutgers would benefit from opportunities to learn about and encounter sustainable food and alternative food systems inside and outside the classroom and that universities must find ways to encourage adopting environmentally responsible behaviors outside the “campus bubble” and into the real world and life after school.
RCI affiliates Robert Kopp and Lisa Auermuller are featured in an NJ101.5 article highlighting the risk of another storm like Hurricane Sandy impacting coastal communities struggling to adapt. According to Governor Chris Christie, progress has been extraordinary over the past five years as beaches from Cape May to Sandy Hook have been fortified with dunes and walls. Robert Kopp agrees, but is concerned with the lack of a coastal master plan to address remaining weaknesses. Lisa Auermuller confirms that progress has occurred on an individual level, but not at the community level, especially in terms of preparing for longer term aspects of climate change. Raising homes protects an individual’s property but offers nothing to protect roadways, water pumping stations, and stormwater systems. Additionally, the construction of dunes and walls have led to an increase in back bay flooding for many areas.
The ‘RU Sustainable to the CORE?’ conference was held on October 11th at the Cook Student Center. Co-sponsored by the Rutgers Climate Institute, along with many other campus groups and organized by the Sustainability Committee at Rutgers led by RCI affiliate Jill Lipoti, participants gathered to discuss how 17 global goals could be used to promote sustainability at Rutgers. Four ‘CORE’ areas were the focus of the conference, including curriculum, operations, research, and engagement. The discussion for goal 13, or ‘climate action’ was led by RCI affiliate Ming Xu, RCI co-director Robin Leichenko, and RCI associate director Marjorie Kaplan.
RCI Affiliate Lisa Auermuller on behalf of the Rutgers Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JC NERR) is participating in the Resilience twinning project which aims to develop cooperation between marine protected areas (MPAs) on the Atlantic rim to boost resilience to coastal changes such as rapid population densification and climate impacts. Partners in the project include five MPAs: Abrolhos National Park (Brazil), Emerald Ark ecological complex (Gabon), Cozumel Biosphere Reserve (Mexico), Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (USA) and the Northern Littoral Natural Park (Portugal, part of the Natura 2000 network site). The project is examining strategies and approaches developed by the MPAs to respond to changes to their environment due to the growing pressure on resources and assets in coastal zones and to climate change, as well as the role of MPAs in reinforcing the resilience of coastal territories and areas. In May 2017, JC NERR hosted MPA managers from Gabon, Mexico, Brazil, and France in a workshop to define shared impacts and drivers and to identifying best practices for responses to those impacts. In July, Auermuller and JC NERR Reserve Manager Michael DeLuca, attended a conference in Gabon to refine the strategies for resilience collaboration across the Atlantic, specifically focused on sub-regions and interactions with local communities. Learn more here.
RCI Affiliate Lisa Auermuller (4th from Left) hosted a Marine Protected Areas Resilience Twinning Project workshop at the Rutgers Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve.
RCI affiliate Benjamin Lintner is co-author of a new study in Nature Climate Change examining regional extreme climate responses in relation to anthropogenic land use and land cover change The scientists found that mature forest cover can mitigate the impacts of severe heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather events over large regions, including quantifying how historical conversion of native forests to cropland has influenced the frequency of hot and dry summers in the mid-latitudes of the U.S. and Europe, finding that such conversion leads to a two- to four-fold increase in the occurrence of hot, dry summers in these altered areas. Read more here.
This New England Journal of Medicine piece discusses the disconnect between communities that go through disaster recovery and the missed opportunity in improving overall health of such communities as part of the recovery process. The authors point to the National Academy of Medicine Report Healthy, Resilient, and Sustainable Communities after Disasters, as well as lessons learned from the Rutgers Planning Healthy Communities Initiative, for which RCI affiliates Jeanne Herb and Rob Laumbach are facilitators and which used health impact assessments to understand the post-disaster decision making and recovery planning in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The PHCI provided officials with an assessment of the potential physical and mental health consequences relevant to determining whether to offer voluntary buyouts of properties in a flood-prone neighborhood of Little Egg Harbor Township, NJ and recommended that buyout programs should be funded, expeditiously activated, and proactively planned to address critical needs such as mental health service challenges for low-income populations and developing new open spaces dedicated to physical health needs. The NEJM piece notes their model is useful to other communities faced with similar decision-making challenge
RCI affiliate Francisco Artigas discusses improved data collection abilities throughout the New Jersey Meadowlands in this NJTV News piece on the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute’s implementation of drone technology.
RCI affiliate David Robinson of the New Jersey Weather & Climate Network assesses the forecast for the upcoming winter on NJ.com. With a La Nina developing in the eastern equatorial Pacific, more mild weather is expected for New Jersey. Although most La Nina winters tend to have below average snowfall, exceptions exist, including the winter of 2011-2012.
Congratulations to the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance (NJCAA) which has been honored with a 2017 Planning Excellence Award from the New Jersey Chapter of the American Planning Association. The Alliance is a network of diverse sector leaders enhancing climate change preparedness in NJ and is co-facilitated by RCI Affiliate Jeanne Herb, and RCI Associate Director, Marjorie Kaplan. The NJCAA won the James W. Hughes Applied Research Award for its Science and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) to develop consensus science projections regarding sea level rise, coastal storms and coastal flood hazards in New Jersey to support local planning and decision-making. RCI Affiliate Robert Kopp chaired the STAP, RCI Co-Directors Robin Leichenko and Tony Broccoli, as well as RCI Affiliates Ben Horton, Ken Miller, and Dave Robinson were members of the Science and Technical Advisory Panel. The STAP and a companion report are being used by planners in several contexts in New Jersey. Kaplan, Herb, and RCI Affiliate Lisa Auermuller were contributors to the STAP report and were also co-authors of the Companion Report.
New Jersey saw its 28th driest September in 122 years this past month, and has been mostly rain-free since September 20th, according to RCI affiliate David Robinson on nj.com. According to Robinson, conditions are currently drier than they were all summer long, however no problems with water reserves exist as of yet.
New Jersey’s robust aquaculture industry is due to a robust oyster population, thanks in part to Rutgers University over the past 70 years. According to RCI affiliate David Bushek, population control through a fixed quota keeps the oyster population high, in addition to partnering with farmers to return shells back to the water. This provides crucial habitats where more oysters can grow.
Rutgers University was awarded a one-year planning grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, in collaboration with eight land grant universities in the northeast. The grant will be used to analyze the feasibility of the Climate Master Volunteer Program, which would educate volunteers about climate change, adaptation, and community resilience.
New Handouts Summarize Tree Species Responses to Climate Change
NIACS created a series of 2-page handouts that summarize how individual tree species are expected to respond to climate change across the Northeast based on regional climate change vulnerability assessments. Each handout includes model projections based on future climate scenarios and models like the Climate Change Tree Atlas. We think they're a handy way to show a lot of information and get people thinking about managing climate change risk and opportunity. Handouts are available for subregions within each of the three project areas:
Featured Resource: New Forest Service Report Explores Carbon in Land Management
NIACS and partners developed a Forest Service report, Considering Forest and Grassland Carbon in Land Management. Carbon sequestration is just one of many ecosystem services provided by forests and grasslands, and this report explores considerations for natural resource professionals who are interested in increasing carbon benefits on the lands that they manage.
Information from the report was also used to expand the topic pages on the Climate Change Resource Center. Topic pages provide background on issues and climate change effects as well as highlighting management options. New and updated topic pages include: Global Carbon, Carbon and Land Management, Forest Management for Carbon Benefits, and Forest Soil Carbon.
RCI affiliate Asa Rennermalm was featured in Rutgers Today, discussing her work in Greenland over the past 10 years. Current modeling efforts have not been enough to adequately simulate streams on the surface of ice sheets, which is important for surface mass balance as well as ice sheet dynamics. Her team uses sensors that they place in streams on the ice sheet to build a record of river discharge data, which ultimately informs ice balance models.
RCI affiliate Alan Robock was a co-author in a major study published in Nature Communications which explored the link between El Nino events and large tropical volcanic eruptions. El Nino events have been observed in the year following four out of the last five large tropical volcanic eruptions, but why this occurred was previously unknown. This new study concludes that the cooling of Africa (due to the sulfur aerosols injected into the stratosphere by the volcano) leads to the development of Kelvin waves which induce westerly winds across the western Pacific, kickstarting an El Nino. Climate model simulations also show that large tropical volcanic eruptions shorten La Ninas and lengthen already ongoing El Ninos.
Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupting on June 12, 1991. A much larger eruption occurred three days later. U.S. Geological Survey
A partnership between Rutgers University and NBC 4 New York has led to the installation of a doppler radar on the Rutgers Cook Campus. According to RCI Co-director Anthony Broccoli, the radar will facilitate both research opportunities as well as plenty learning opportunities for students in the meteorology program, who will have access to the data.
RCI affiliate Alan Robock discusses the climate impacts of volcanoes, in the context of Mt Agung in Bali, which is poised for an eruption. Volcanic eruptions cause global cooling on the order of 0.1-0.2C, which would not be enough to counter global warming.
The 13th International Turfgrass Research Conference was held at Rutgers University from July 16-21st, drawing 480 registrants from 24 countries. The conference theme was “Meeting the Challenge of a Changing Environment”, put together by the Scientific Program Planning Committee. RCI affiliate Bingru Huang heads this committee. The theme was chosen as it reflects the impact of the environment on our personal and professional lives, particularly important in the context of turfgrass science. The conference included the video, “Understanding the mechanisms that drive global and regional climate change.” featuring RCI Co-director Anthony Broccoli.
RCI affiliate Ying Fan Reinfelder published a new study describing how tree roots search hundreds of feet deep, forcing roots through cracks in rocks to search for water, as explained in Rutgers Today. The depth of the plant roots is a function of soil conditions, which are important when considering plants’ adaptation to climate change. Plants are very adaptable, but deeper-rooted plants will have an advantage as their environments change around them.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released Enhancing the Resilience of the Nation’s Electricity System which describes how investments must be prioritized based on potential benefits as opposed to perfection of the system. The report identifies strategies to increase the resilience of power systems in the face of large-area long-duration outages.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released Wind Energy Finance in the United States: Current Practice and Opportunities. Investment in wind energy since 2006 has been greater than $140billion, yet costs for investors are driven up by a lack of familiarity with its asset class. This report provides a demonstration of how financing rates impact a project’s total energy cost, with the goal to provide a resource for financing the wind development process.
RCI Co-Director Tony Broccoli featured at September 27, 2017 statewide conference Climate Change Policy in New Jersey: Advancing Opportunities to make New Jersey Safer, Greener, Healthier and More Prosperous , sponsored by the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance. Professor Broccoli is featured in this NJTVNews piece about the conference describing climate change impacts to New Jersey, along with RCI Associate Director Marjorie Kaplan and Rutgers Professor, Dr. George DiFerdinando . The conference, including Dr. Broccoli and Dr. DiFerdinando, are also featured in this NJ Spotlight piece.
New Jersey is not on target to reach its greenhouse gas goal by 2050, according to a new report by researchers from Rutgers Climate Institute, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Georgetown Climate Center and World Resources Institute. The report found the state lacks a detailed and comprehensive strategy to achieve its goals. Greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 80% below 2006 levels, which would be possible through a number of existing authorities and programs already in existence, according to RCI affiliate Jeanne Herb. Two Former New Jersey Governors, James Florio and Thomas Kean, cite the report in a recent NJ Spotlight Op-Ed NJ’s Next Gov. Can Make A Real Difference On Climate Change.