2018-2019 Academic Year

News and Highlights in April 2019

A new study suggests that the rapidly warming Arctic may trigger tipping points that could significantly add to the economic cost of climate change, reports Scientific American. The primary concern is the potential release of large amounts of CO2 and methane from thawing permafrost, in addition to rapid changes to the amount of snow and ice covering the Earth. RCI affiliate Robert Kopp, who was not involved with this particular study, warns of related socio-economic tipping points which could affect society's ability to respond to climate change related disasters of the future.

A number of New Jersey legislative committees held a joint hearing to examine the issues surrounding climate change, reports TAPinto Edison. Experts testified on the impact of climate change in New Jersey, including RCI co-director Tony Broccoli, RCI associate director Marjorie Kaplan as well as affiliates Jeanne Herb and Bob Kopp.

April 2019 was the 3rd warmest April on record for South Jersey, according to a podcast with RCI affiliate / New Jersey State Climatologist Dave Robinson in an interview with the Press of Atlantic City. Listen to the whole interview, which discusses the reason behind the recent warmth and rainfall in New Jersey.

RCI affiliate Daniel Van Abs discusses a new course on how water availability affects sustainability and economic viability in an interview with the Rutgers Global Health Institute. Conflict over water allocation, drought, water quality problems, and even floods can strain international relations and damage societies, an ever increasing threat in the face of climate change. The course hopes to be thought-provoking and introduce students to new perspectives relating to water.

Congratulations to RCI affiliate Pam McElwee, one of this year’s Carnegie Fellows. The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program provides support for high-caliber scholarship in the social sciences and humanities. McElwee is one of two Rutgers recipients, in addition to Rutgers Newark's Melissa Cooper.

Congratulations to Yair Rosenthal, Douglas Zemeckis, and Xenia Morin-- RCI affiliates who have been awarded SEBS 2019 Excellence Awards. Yair Rosenthal was awarded the International Excellence Award, Douglas Zemeckis was awarded the Outreach Excellence Award, and Xenia Morin was awarded the Teaching Excellence Award.

RCI co-director Tony Broccoli, RCI associate director Marjorie Kaplan as well as affiliates Jeanne Herb and Bob Kopp testified at a joint hearing of the New Jersey State Senate Environment and Energy Committee and General Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on the impact of climate change and ways to mitigate it, reports NJTV Online and NJ Spotlight.

30% of New Jersey residents say they know little or nothing at all about the causes of climate change, according to an Eagleton Poll, conducted on behalf of the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance but two-thirds of New Jerseyans are concerned about the impact climate change will have on them, reports Press of Atlantic City.

A study led by RCI affiliate Malin Pinsky finds that marine species are being eliminated from their habitats by warming temperatures twice as often as land species, reports Rutgers Today. The loss of a population can deplete the genetic diversity of species', which can alter the ecosystems that benefit human society. Access the paper is here.

Rutgers senior Lauren Rodgers, under the guidance of RCI affiliate Elisabeth Sikes, was featured by Rutgers Today as a prominent young researcher studying the impact of climate change in the context of chemical oceanography. Rodgers is currently conducting research as a George H. Cook Scholar, her honors thesis involves helping to assess sea surface temperatures over the last 150,000 years in the Southern Ocean near Tasmania. 

Scientists, students, and plant enthusiasts gathered on March 30th for the 'Plants in the City' symposium on Douglass Campus, a part of the Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis project, an effort to digitize one million plant species. Documenting this data, which is a collection of preserved plant specimens and data used for scientific research, helps to quantify changes related to invasive species as well as climate change.

Immediate global action is necessary to ensure a world where global mean warming at the end of the century is limited to 2 degrees Celsius, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. According to author Klaus Keller, 'uncertainty is not an excuse for inaction', and likens taking action to buying insurance. Rutgers University researcher Gregory Garner assisted in the study.

In 2018, Vietnam became the first Asia-Pacific country to reach eligibity for results-based carbon reduction payments under REDD+ (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradiation), reports Mongabay. The program aims to reduce emissions caused by deforestation, but according to RCI affiliate Pamela McElwee, funds that were promised by REDD+ never appeared for farmers who changed their lifestyles. While REDD+ has its issues, it is expected to take more time before it can be implemented efficiently.

New Jersey State Climatologist / RCI affiliate Dave Robinson discusses how prone to wildfires New Jersey is in an interview with Press of Atlantic City. Additionally, Robinson recaps March and discusses the growing season outlook.

A recent Rutgers University study on the factors affecting offshore wind-based energy in New Jersey is helping New Jersey get a better sense of the energy potential off of its coast, reports NJ monthly.

Rising temperatures and increased carbon dioxide levels are prolonging the length of pollen production seasons and increasing the amount of pollen released, reports NBC Chicago. According to RCI affiliate Leonard Bielory, an increase in both the number of allergy sufferers and the number of things they are allergic to has been observed in recent years. 

RCI affiliate Robert Kopp writes for The Conversation on the need for climate science research to broaden its approach to allow for a focus on risk management. Kopp points to the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance as a modern example of an organization that links communities and businesses to climate science expertise. Ultimately, investments on the national level are required to elevate these types of groups to help best manage the risks of climate change.  

An invasive plant species along US coastlines may have important benefits after all, writes RCI affiliate Judith Weis, rendering its removal as both expensive and foolish. Phragmites australis, a tall perennial grass, has invaded brackish marshes, but research suggests that this invasive species provides protection for marine life that is comparable to native species. Additionally, phragmites is not only better at sequestering carbon dioxide and excess nitrogen from the water, but it provides physical protection from storms.

A New York Magazine article about umbrellas asks RCI affiliate Anthony Broccoli about the effect of global warming on rainfall in the northeast.

Allergy season in New Jersey has officially begun, reports NJ 101.5. According to RCI affiliate Leonard Bielory, pollen counts are expected to be high due to abundant precipitation, which already led to a premature release of pollen in late February.

Experts weighed in on plans to develop New Jersey into a carbon-free economy in a March 15th meeting in Hamilton Township, reports NJ Spotlight. Among items discussed were subsidies for nuclear power plants in NJ and policies to electrify the transportation sector. RCI affiliate Frank Felder was featured on one of the panels, which discussed the role of technology in accomplishing decarbonization goals.

RCI affiliate Robert Kopp was an author for the chapter on sea level rise for the New York City Panel on Climate Change 2019 Report, published by the New York Academy of Sciences. Sea level rise projections here provide the scientific basis for decision making and planning in New York City. Additionally, RCI affiliate Robin Leichenko and Rutgers graduate student Khai Nguyen were co-authors on Chapter 6 of the report, which discussed adaptation and equity.

A mild and wet winter has increased the likelihood that tick populations will surge in 2019, increasing the risk of Lyme Disease, according to RCI affiliate Dina Fonseca

A new study suggests that geo-engineering to minimize climate change could be safe, reports Scientific American and The Atlantic. However, RCI affiliate and geo-engineering expert Alan Robock expresses skepticism, taking issue with their crude representation of geo-engineering, which was simulated by simply dimming of the sun, and not actually putting aerosols into the upper atmosphere. 

Increased populations of black sea bass are causing havoc for the New England lobster industry, mostly because of their aggressive appetites for young lobster. Warmer ocean temperatures as a result of climate change is responsible for the increase in black sea bass further north, noted RCI affiliate Olaf Jensen.