2020-2021 Academic Year

News and Highlights in July 2021

An estimated 1 billion sea creatures are believed to have died as a result of the recent Pacific Northwest heat wave, reports NPR. While that number is staggering, Christopher Harley of the University of British Columbia believes it to be much higher. Although the initial cost of life is profound, the ramifications later on might be even more severe. With increasingly common heat events, the ecosystem will be in flux, never returning to its previous state. Malin Pinsky, an associate professor of marine biology at Rutgers University and RCI affiliate, said the extreme heat contributes to a "massive reorganization of ocean life." "Species are shifting towards the poles of the Earth at about 60 kilometers [37 miles] per decade, and it doesn't happen slowly, bit by bit. It often happens in these extreme events, where a large population of something like mussels can die," Pinsky said. The death of mussels may cause death further up the food chain. Larger organisms on both land and water feed off the mussel, and with its demise those creatures are at risk too.

NJ Spotlight interviews Dr. Anthony Broccoli, Rutgers Climate Institute Co-Director. Broccoli indicates that climate change is causing more frequent and severe hot days. Through climate attribution techniques, climate scientists are able to find how much of the blame for an extreme event can be attributed to anthropogenic climate change. A recent study indicates that the late June/early July heat wave in the Pacific Northwest was 150 times more likely to occur because of climate change. Broccoli states that climate change is also affecting New Jersey, with the number of days above 90 degrees rising from 15 per year in the 1970s to around 30 per year in the last decade. The past 100 years has seen a rise in temperatures but that rise has accelerated since 1970. Since 1970, global warming has progressed at about twice the rate that we would calculate if we looked over the last century. Stopping this trend depends on limiting greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide.

The collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida revealed a key flaw in human logic, argues Wired.com. There were many signs that disaster was imminent, yet little action was taken. The formal term for protecting against future calamity is “long-term risk governance,” an action that is rarely taken by humans. “It’s really the exception to the rule when people act before something terrible has actually happened,” says Rachael Shwom, an environmental sociologist at Rutgers University and a Rutgers Climate Institute Affiliate and the coauthor, with climate scientist Robert Kopp, also an RCI Affiliate, of a 2019 paper in the Journal of Risk Research that tried to figure out what it takes to get people to act upon the warning of a potential catastrophe. The lack of action in response to the Surfside disaster is an analog to the lack of action in response to climate change. Despite a series of natural disasters in the past few years that were partially caused by anthropogenic climate change, policymakers did little. For decisive action to protect the planet, humans must work together and encourage leadership that will combat climate change, rather than leaving to individuals, a scenario that will end in disaster.

Rutgers Climate Institute Affiliate and SEBS faculty member Pamela McElwee is the recipient of an award in the Rutgers University Research Council’s Collaborative Multidisciplinary Awards Program. The program is designed to facilitate interdisciplinary cooperation within the university, reports the SEBS Newsroom. McElwee is co-principal investigator of the project, “Global Asian Studies and its Futures,” one of eight projects funded under this program.

Know Your Tides. The NJ Coastal Flooding Communications Campaign has kicked off to raise awareness of flood risk in New Jersey’s coastal areas and encourage people to take steps to reduce risk. By understanding when and where high tides will occur, everyone can better enjoy their time and stay safe on NJ's bays, tidal rivers, and beaches.. Led by NJ’s Coastal Management Program in the NJDEP and the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JCNERR). Watch the campaign trailer here #KnowYourTidesNJ.