Good morning, Blue Jersey fam. It’s Pi Day and Stephen Hawking is dead. What’s it all mean? Deep thought to kick it off. We’re not sure what’s more surreal: the fact that we had a Secretary of State representing the… Read more
It’s official: We have news from the New Jersey DEP that Gov. Murphy has notified the governors in RGGI – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – that New Jersey is rejoining the agreement. From a letter sent last week to… Read more
Rosi and I have been discussing having a science series on the weekends here at Blue Jersey. The problem is I find it difficult to find topics to blog about that have a New Jersey angle.
After all, so many important problems are settled. One of the great government triumphs of the last century was the system of childhood vaccinations that defeated dangerous diseases. We don’t have to worry our tough-talking governor would be wishy-washy on vaccines.
I started elementary school around the same time that Dwight Eisenhower took office for his first term as President of the United States. The world was a lot different then. But one thing defined the political dialogue – the threat of a massive thermonuclear war between America and the Soviet Union.
Of course, there were other things going on. The middle class was thriving, massive investments were made in infrastructure (from which we are still benefit today), and the wealthiest among us paid their fair share in taxes. The space race was on, and although the U.S. started from way behind, Neil Armstrong’s footstep across the finish line was a great triumph for America’s embrace of science and technology as well as for its public education system.
Yet, the shadow of a nuclear holocaust was the overriding issue, at least for my generation. We did the “duck and cover” exercises as if a half-inch thick wooden desk could protect us from fatal radiation. There were public fallout shelters everywhere, and the most zealous survivalists had elaborate shelters in their homes. The “Red Scare” embraced by Senator Joe McCarthy and those of his ilk ruined many innocent lives.
Eventually, the Cold War ended. Some progress has been made in reducing the threat of a nuclear holocaust, although the reduction in the number of warheads stockpiled by America and Russia is offset by the proliferation of nuclear capability in nations with even more unstable leadership.
So if nuclear annihilation is not the pressing issue in 2014, what is? What’s the single most urgent issue our leaders and citizens should be addressing?
One thing that really annoys climate change deniers are facts. So if you don’t want facts, don’t watch this video. But if you’re concerned about the effect of global climate change on New Jersey, slog through the scary narrative that Rutgers climate scientist Dr. Anthony Broccoli delivered to an Assembly panel this week. Especially when he tells us that “there is no realistic scenario in which all future [climate] changes can be avoided.” He warns us that in addition to working to mitigate carbon emissions, we must also be prepared to spend the money to adapt to the inevitable sea level rises and severe weather.
Tea Partiers would rather sacrifice the nation and the planet than compromise on their agenda. That may not be a scientifically provable fact, but it’s still horrifying.
When I opened up today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, my eyes went to a headline that read: “A Republican greens can support” accompanied by a photo of Chris Christie. Even before I read the column, I checked the date to make sure I wasn’t reading the April 1 issue.
As the headline indicates, the columnist tries to convince the reader that Chris Christie is a friend of the environment. He mentions that New Jersey is among the nation’s leaders in deployment of solar energy (true), and that the governor opposed offshore liquefied natural gas terminals (a.k.a. highly explosive and dangerous potential pollution factories).
Cherry-picking some positive steps that have been made by the governor does not make him a friend of the environment. Christie has still refused to say that human activity contributes to global climate change and that most reputable scientists have concluded that events like Hurricane Sandy are exacerbated by global warming. The columnist does not mention that Chris Christie unilaterally, over the objection of the legislature, pulled the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. And Christie’s pro-fracking stance does not exactly jive with promoting clean drinking water supplies.
The author misleads the reader by stating that “in 2009, leading environmental groups … backed Christie over incumbent Jon Corzine.” Yet, the leading and most credible environmental group, the Sierra Club, took a pass in that election, endorsing a third party candidate over both Christie and Corzine.
The column ends with a swipe at Barbara Buono’s campaign, so one has to wonder what the motivation of the author was. Was it to really tout Christie’s environmental record? Or was it just another instance of the Norcross Newsmedia working to re-elect their friend?
Rush Holt, New Jersey’s physicist congressman, released this statement after attending President Barack Obama’s visit to Asbury Park Convention Hall to check on how New Jersey’s doing rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy:
“Disaster relief is a key responsibility of the federal government, and I’m grateful that the president continues to return to New Jersey to check on our progress after Hurricane Sandy.
“As climate change causes more and more floods, storms, and hurricanes, we’re going to have to find ways to rise above politics to prevent disasters when we can and to repair damages when we must.”
The solutions to the world’s environmental problems are numerous and inextricably related. There’s no silver bullet, but rather a set of choices – some easy and some more difficult – that have to be made if this planet is to remain habitable.
Solutions involve combinations of environmentally efficient energy sources like CHP, totally clean non-fossil solutions like wind and solar, and reduction of energy usage through conservation.
The issues are not only technical, but they have a large political component as well.
While some of our elected officials, mostly but not exclusively from the Republican Party, still look backward toward fossil fuels and subsidies for the obscenely rich oil barons, others are promoting more sensible approaches.
One approach to alleviate some of the environmental damage is to improve the way we construct our buildings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in the United States buildings consume 40% of our energy and produce 39% of our carbon emissions. Yet the technology exists to significantly reduce energy, CO2 emissions, water use, and solid waste.
Assemblymen McKeon, Chivukula, Barnes, and Conaway are among legislators who have promoted realizable solutions to our energy and environment crisis. Despite their effort, Governor Christie has vetoed green building initiatives in the past, using his veto message to excoriate the Democrats in the legislature. Those four assemblymen have re-introduced a green building bill (A-1966) this session.
I spoke yesterday with Assembly McKeon outside of the Trenton office of the Department of Environmental Protection. I asked him why the bill is being re-introduced despite the governor’s opposition to investment in jobs and the environment. In the short conversation, posted below, McKeon said he hoped the governor would have “an epiphany” and consider signing the bill this year.
Certainly, the governor has occasionally changed his mind on issues – as he recently did with internet gambling. But given the fact that the Koch Brothers are pulling the governor’s strings and the governor relies on dirty energy money to further his political ambitions, I suspect that more than an epiphany is needed. We need either a miracle or a new governor to advance the cause of clean energy in New Jersey.
Yesterday, Governor Christie issued some rules pertaining to rebuilding homes on the Jersey Shore – homes that were destroyed or demolished by Hurricane Sandy. These rules are tough and will be expensive to home owners to comply with. But they are necessary. In effect, the Governor acknowledged that future storms and sea surges will become more frequent and severe, thus acknowledging the fact that predictions made decades ago by global climate scientists are now coming to fruition.
Yet, the Governor still refuses to acknowledge that there are things we can do to alleviate the frequency and severity of these events. His cozying up to the Koch Brothers and withdrawal of the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative just work toward making the situation worse. His less-than-enthusiastic support for renewable energy like wind and solar power guarantees that New Jersey’s dependence on dirty global-climate-changing energy will be with us long after he’s gone from the political scene.
This is the first article for local publication in NJ I wrote after returning from New Orleans as State Communications Director for Repower America. It was published in the TriCityNews on January 21st 2010. TriCityNews only publishes in hard copy, so I reprinted it here, since it’s become suddenly relevant again in the last month. Originally published as: ‘Reshaping Asbury Park: Climate Change, Local Agriculture and Economic Development in a Hazardous World – or How I Learned to Love Sea Level Rise while New Jersey’s Land Sinks under our feet’
So perhaps I’m crazy. After a decade in Minnesota where stores sell t-shirts emblazoned with umbrella-carrying penguins and the slogan “Minnesotans for Global Warming” I spent a chunk of 2009 in Louisiana where a football field’s worth of land disappears into the sea every 15 minutes.
So now I’m finally home in coastal Monmouth County in New Jersey – the Atlantic Coast state most threatened by sea level rise according to Geology, a science journal that reports on such things. New Jersey also happens to be the only eastern seaboard state with the same subsidence problem as Louisiana — the sinking of land due to geologic factors. Luckily New Jersey doesn’t suffer from the severity of the problem that Louisiana does — destruction of wetlands from oil and gas production and massive losses of land-building sediment from the mighty Mississippi, but New Jersey’s coastal lands are slowly sinking even as overall sea level rises.