In the face of President Trump’s decision in August to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, at least 10 states, including New York and Connecticut, remain committed to meeting the greenhouse-gas emission targets established by the pact. New Jersey is not in that group—but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to take steps to combat global warming.
Global warming is not a distant threat. The effects of global warming are happening now, and the actions we take—or fail to take—will have profound consequences for future generations.
According to “Crossroads NJ: Climate and Environment,” a recent report by the Fund for New Jersey, the state’s mean annual temperature rose 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the first decade of the current century. It is expected to increase another 3–5 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2050s, and by 4–7.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2080s. By that time, summers here, according to the report, will be as warm as they are in Alabama today.
Precipitation is expected to increase too, with significant impact on agriculture, plant and animal life, flooding, and our supply of clean water. Rising sea levels are a huge concern for New Jersey. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if we stay the present course, the sea is likely to rise 18 inches to 4 feet along our coastline in the next century.
There is much New Jersey can do, according to the Fund for NJ report. One step is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. More specifically, the state should rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which it dropped out of in 2011. States participating in RGGI commit to capping their carbon emissions and requiring power plants to purchase allowances in order to emit specific amounts of carbon. The funds generated can be earmarked for initiatives to help communities cut energy consumption—especially in urban areas—and to promote the use of clean energy, says the Fund for NJ report.
Another recommendation: Establish a state agency “to drive energy efficiency measures, monitor and evaluate the success of current and future measures, and develop innovative ways to reduce energy use.”
There are folks in the Statehouse who agree that we need to be doing more at the state level when it comes to renewable energy. State Senator Bob Smith (D-Piscataway), chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, believes the Board of Public Utilities should lead the way. “They should be adopting rules to allow for the appropriate credits to be given to the wind developers,” Smith says. “They’re not making the grid friendly to renewables. They should require the utilities to put more storage capability on the grid, and that’s something that can be done by order…. We should be mandating smart thermostats. We should be adopting policies that increase the energy efficiency in our state.”
Smith also sees the need for federal action. He reminds us that air pollution crosses state borders. “If [federal] air pollution laws are not being enforced, we’ve got a problem.” says Smith. “My bet is that the laws that were supposed to [combat air pollution] are going to change, and that’s not going to be good for the health of New Jersey citizens. When you have air pollution, you have higher rates of asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, mortality, morbidity—the effects could be terrible.”
We must continue to make environmental protection a priority at the national and local levels. Our quality of life, and that of our great-grandchildren and their children, is at stake.Click here to leave a comment