Rutgers at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 27th Conference of the Parties at Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, November 2022.
Reports, posts, and images courtesy of Katherine Cann, Rutgers doctoral student in Geography. You can read a full blog post of Katherine Cann’s experience at COP 27.
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Part of Rutgers delegation at COP27 outside negotiation meeting rooms. Dr. Danielle Falzon (Assistant Professor of Sociology), Dr. Robin Leichenko (Professor of Geography and Co-Director of the Rutgers Climate Institute), and Katherine Cann (PhD Student in the Department of Geography).
Signing the wall at the Climate Education Hub at the Earth Day Pavilion.
We watched a panel on the power of education as a climate action accelerator. We discussed ways universities and faculty can support students and university communities taking action for the climate through climate-focused curriculum, institutional efforts, and community-engaged research.
Professor of Geography and Co-Director of the Rutgers Climate Institute Dr. Robin Leichenko presents her work on the New York Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) during an event about leveraging local adaptation in cities around the world at an event hosted by the Israel Pavilion at COP27.
Attending a High Level segment for world leaders to share their commentary about the state of the climate crisis and their hopes for the outcome of COP27. I caught the Prime Minister of Samoa Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa deliver her address. She stressed the importance of ocean action including attention to sea level rise and plastic pollution. One quote from her closing: “Commitment to concrete action now and elevated ambition can save our planet for future generations.”
Rutgers at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 27th Conference of the Parties at Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, November 2022.
Rutgers Today interviewed several climate scientists and RCI affiliates at Rutgers about their reflections on superstorm Sandy, 10 years later. Bob Kopp described the increase in rare events, where so-called “400 year events” now happen much more frequently. Kopp says that “as we invest in new infrastructure and as we think about the future shape of our communities, it’s critical that we take these changes into account. Tony Broccoli talks about how his community at the shore still has not recovered completely. Robin Leichenko notes the phenomenon of “climate gentrification, whereby climate resiliency efforts are associated with new housing development that bring in higher income homeowners or investors,” near the shore. Marjorie Kaplan argues “the big pivot we need to make is to systematically integrate scientific data regarding climate change concerns into planning how and where we design, site structures and infrastructure and where we invest public resources to prevent climate impacts. Over the past decade, we have been developing usable science to provide tools for policy makers, citizens, planners and others to help with that pivot.” David Robinson says that Sandy “was a transformative storm with respect to its impacts on natural and built environments, to subsequent changes in forecast and emergency-management procedures and to the psyche of everyone who experienced Sandy. This has led to a greater appreciation of Mother Nature, of the ever-growing vulnerability of communities to storms and to our changing climate. This again was brought to the forefront when Ida’s remnants deluged New Jersey on Sept. 1, 2021.” Jeanne Herb discusses social inequities as a result of climate change, saying that she’s heard a consistent response with regards to the issue: “ensure equitable access to the conditions that allow all of us to lead happy and healthy lives and we will build resilience for generations to come. By fixing underlying social inequities, we can build healthier and more resilient communities for everyone.” Cara Cuite emphasizes the need for emergency plans, saying that “Sandy and subsequent storms have highlighted that while we must increase the resiliency of coastal infrastructure in preparation for future storms, we also must increase our capacity to successfully evacuate coastal populations.”
Kenneth Miller, Distinguished Professor in Rutgers Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
For RutgersToday, RCI affiliate Kenneth Miller discusses buying or building a home at the Jersey Shore. “Superstorm Sandy was the fourth 100-year storm we weathered at the Jersey Shore since 1991,” said Miller, a Distinguished Professor in the Rutgers Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, who lived in the coastal community of Waretown, New Jersey, until 2015. “In the other storms, my house was an island in Barnegat Bay,” he said. “During Sandy, my house was in Barnegat Bay. The mark on my sheetrock testified that the surge was 19 inches above the 100-year mark. The three previous storms – in 1991, 1992 and 2005 – reached but did not exceed the 100-year mark.” “There has been a sea change – if you will – of students’ attitudes since the course was first introduced,” Miller said. “In the beginning, they were skeptical about climate change. Today, 95 percent understand this is a problem caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses and want to do something about it.” Miller says that the Jersey Shore is facing both sea level rise and land sinking. He wishes there was improved funding to rebuild the shore; even ten years later many areas have not recovered. He also believes that standards for new buildings should incorporate projections of sea level rise. Houses raised just a few feet higher may survive the next bad storm while some at the minimum would not.
Jie Gong, RCI affiliate
For RutgersToday, RCI affiliate Jie Gong discusses his research on flooding models. He began an ambitious project to map the entire state for flooding risk. “The idea was to capture accurate elevation data for everything within the 500-year flood plain,” Gong said. “Every foot of roadway, every window, every front door, an accurate 3D model of reality. Combine that with good rainfall data, hydrological modeling and a lot of computing power, and you know where the water will reach on every building.” The surveying is accomplished by a van with a specialized camera that uses LIDAR technology, which emits lasers and calculates dimensions based on the speed at which the laser bounces back. The project is being utilized by NJ Transit to detect flooding risk now. “Forecasting has a lot of uncertainties, so we allow users to add various safety factors, just in case the forecasters underestimate,” Gong said. The eventual goal is to rank every individual house by flood risk and disseminate the information to the community. “It would certainly be possible to expand the system to the point of sending a text or email to every person whose house was at risk of flooding, telling them to expect water in the basement but none on the first floor,” Gong said. “That would reduce the damage the next time a major storm rolls through.”
Brooke Maslo, RCI affiliate
For RutgersToday, RCI affiliate Brooke Maslo, tours the Watson-Crampton neighborhood of Woodbridge, which received a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy. Many of the homes were destroyed and the neighborhood is still partially abandoned. “We didn’t do disaster avoidance in Woodbridge, like putting up sea walls or levies designed to keep water out,” Maslo said. “This was about resilience. We wanted to create spaces that allow water to absorb naturally into the ecosystem and filter out on its own, to give the floodplain an opportunity to do what a floodplain is supposed to do.” An NJ DEP program called Blue Acres has bought up land in the neighborhood and it is being converted into a flood protection zone. Conversion of the area began in 2015, with Maslo saying that “when we started in 2015 there was really no guidance on what to do”. “The state just said, ‘OK, the land is deed-restricted, it must be managed as open space with no permanent structures,’ but that was about it.” The area is now a patchwork of small parks, boardwalks lines with berms, bioswales, stormwater wetlands, and concrete channels. The work paid off when much of Woodbrdige was not flooded from Ida when it had been in because of Sandy. “A lot of people think of buyouts as abandonment or retreat,” she said. “We’re trying to reframe that narrative and explain that transitions are actually opportunities for new public amenities and for flood management.” “The storms are going to arrive when they arrive,” she said. “We can’t prevent or avoid them. What we can do is reestablish the functions of natural systems and use them to increase resilience.”
Bob Kopp, RCI affiliate
For RutgersToday, RCI affiliate Bob Kopp discusses the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) graduate certificate program, which pairs students with municipalities to combat climate change. “If we want to have a real-world impact on finding solutions to climate change, we are going to need people who can talk both to other researchers and also talk to the people who are actually having the problems,” said Robert Kopp. “The professionals who will solve the climate problems of tomorrow are our students,” said Jeanne Herb, an RCI affiliate and another founder of the program and associate director of the Environmental Analysis and Communications Group at the Bloustein School. “Through C2R2, our students acquire the knowledge and practical skills needed to become leading researchers and practitioners tackling the critical challenges of coastal resilience.” Another RCI affiliate, Lisa Auermuller, wants students to be imaginative when it comes to resiliency. “In this program, I also want them to consider multiple perspectives,” Auermuller said. “What does it mean to communicate science? What does it mean to work with a municipality or with stakeholders? And how can our work benefit more than just our own learning but really be put into use in the community?”
Alan Robock, an RCI affiliate and Distinguished Professor of climate science in the Department of Environmental Sciences
MirageNews reports on a symposium featuring Alan Robock, an RCI affiliate and Distinguished Professor of climate science in the Department of Environmental Sciences. The symposium was hosted by Rutgers University and featured researchers from Rutgers University, Princeton University, and Stevens Institute of Technology, and NJ Institute of Technology. The symposium covered topics such as using nanotechnology to feed crops, improving software and AI, plant-based diets, and environmental justice. Robock had this to say about global warming: “It’s real. It’s us. It’s bad. We’re sure. There’s hope.” Soko Setoguchi, a professor at Rutgers RWJ Medical School, spoke on the effects of climate change on public health, noting that “severe weather can cause not only direct injuries but also mental health impacts. Extreme heat can cause a variety of illnesses, including cardiovascular events. Air pollution can cause asthma and cardiovascular disease. Changing temperatures and seasonality can bring new diseases to entire regions, and they increase the risk of waterborne diseases.”
NJ.com reports on the Rutgers Marine Field Station in Little Egg Harbor, NJ. Little Egg Harbor where Hurricane Sandy made landfall ten years ago, destroying the estuary in the town. The estuary has recovered, but faces the effects of climate change. There has been a shift in fish around the estuary. “Different fish have been moving into the estuary because the ocean is getting warmer,” said Oscar Schofield, RCI affiliate and chair of Rutgers’ Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences. Sea level rise is occurring quickly in South Jersey because the coastline is sinking. The station also employs drones to monitor marine life and collect data on hurricanes. Travis Miles, an RCI affiliate and assistant professor at Rutgers, leads the drone team. The drone, with no propeller, dives and rises for weeks at a time. The drone is an exciting step, giving researchers quicker access to data during hurricanes. “We’re on the cusp of having a new way of reacting to those storms ahead of time,” Schofield said. “We got the atmosphere. But we never got the ocean right. It’s led to a new resurgence of new approaches, so we can tell not only where the storm is coming, but its intensity. That influences whether we do a stay in place or evacuation order. If you don’t get the intensity right, you can’t get the surge right.”
Brooke Maslo Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers University as well as an RCI affiliate
CBS News New York and MorningAgClips report on Brooke Maslo’s work to transform 30 acres in Woodbridge Township from a suburban neighborhood to its natural state. Maslo is an Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers University as well as an RCI affiliate. She has worked with the NJ DEP Blue Acres program, which buys out homes in flood prone areas. The program received much funding after Hurricane Sandy, but struggled to achieve its goals in coastal areas because residents were against giving up their beach houses. She then turned her attention to non-recreational communities, of which the Watson neighborhood of Woodbridge was one. The neighborhood was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. The neighborhood was developed before the widespread adoption of flood planning, leading to frequent flooding problems. The initiative's three main objectives, Maslo explained, are "getting people out of harm's way. The second thing was improving ecological function relative to things like flood capacity, flood mitigation" and finally, "transforming this previously developed landscape back into a public asset." In recent years, storms have not damaged the rest of the neighborhood because the transformed section has successfully trapped the water." This project is absolutely a success, and not only is it a success here, but it is a model for what to do elsewhere in New Jersey," Maslo said.
David Robinson appears on the Press of Atlantic City Across the Sky Podcast. He discusses with the Press’ weather team about the uses of the Rutgers Global Snow Lab. They also discuss the impact of climate change on snowfall.
Alan Robock a climatologist now at Rutgers University
The American Physical Society interviews Alan Robock, who was part of the first group of scientists who predicted the consequence of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. After the publication of that first wave of research, “the arms race ended,” said Robock, a climatologist now at Rutgers University. Fear of nuclear winter subsided, but has resurfaced in recent months following threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Robock notes that even though the nuclear arsenal is much smaller than it was during the 1980s, it still remains large enough to cause an extinction event. Robock’s new research found that a war between India and Pakistan would kill 2 billion people, while a war between Russia and the United States would kill over 5 billion. “So what do you do with this information?” Robock asked. “The most natural reaction is to try to forget it. As Mark Twain said, ‘Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.’” But he also sought to give listeners a sense of agency. “My reaction is to try and do something about it,” said Robock. The United Nations recently passed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, which has been ratified by 68 countries. He remarks that either we will end nuclear weapons or they will end us.
David Bushek, Rutgers professor and RCI affiliate
Scientists and communities are turning to oyster beds to protect against sea level rise and storm surges, reports WHYY. Rutgers University and environmental engineering firm WSP USA have begun to develop oysters to protect coastlines. “How can we use Mother Nature to help us keep up with things such as sea level rise, and keep the shorelines from eroding? Because behind the shorelines are other infrastructures, buildings, roads, and whatnot,” David Bushek, Rutgers professor and RCI affiliate, said. The team has tried to design oysters that clump together easily to grow with sea level rise. “So the next generation of oysters will sit on top of the previous one, and they will grow vertically in that way,” Bushek said. “And so you have a structure that’s living that continues to provide that protection as opposed to something that’s fixed and inanimate. Oyster reefs, in theory, would increase in height as sea level rises.” The project is funded by the Department of Defense, which seeks a reef built in East Bay, Florida. If the project succeeds, it could be brought to other affected areas.