Climate Change is a Major Force in Exacerbating Extreme Weather Events – Harming Our Health, Safety & Economy
(TRENTON, NJ) – Today, New Jersey State Legislators – including Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Bob Smith, Senator Donald Norcross and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman - gathered with residents affected by extreme weather for a press conference on the need to combat climate change and mitigate future impacts. Participants highlighted the devastating and destructive consequences on our health, safety and economy. They also offered support for bold, new federal action being taken by President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The press conference follows Obama’s historic action on climate change. This includes the recent June 2nd announcement of the Clean Power Plan - which will put in place the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. These groundbreaking new initiatives seek to reduce the impacts of climate-fueled extreme weather, like Superstorm Sandy, now and in the future.
"Clean energy is an environmental priority, because it is also a public health issue and an economic opportunity," said Senate President Steve Sweeney. "Carbon pollution is responsible for higher levels of asthma and respiratory disease, and it can cause premature death. Reducing carbon emissions is an important step - but we also should be investing in clean energy, including offshore wind and solar power. This will help create a new generation of clean energy jobs and new economic opportunities."
"Climate change is not a partisan issue. Scientific evidence substantiates it,” said Senator Donald Norcross. “All parties must come together to find common ground on this very important issue. It's time to stop the bickering in our nation's capital and find meaningful solutions before this gets worse."
“One of the first, best steps we can take is to have New Jersey rejoin RGGI, the regional agreement that helps reduce carbon pollution. Because these types of pollutants don't respect state boundaries, regional agreements are needed,” said Senator Bob Smith, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “When the governor pulled the state out of the agreement, he took away our first serious attempt to soften the impact of climate change, and then Hurricane Sandy hit just to remind us of how vulnerable we are as coastal state. The governor should rejoin RGGI.”
"The impact of climate change presents a real and present danger for people across the country and throughout the world," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. "In recent years we’ve witnessed first hand the destructive capabilities of climate change in New Jersey, and studies show clearly that these conditions will only worsen for our children and grandchildren if we don't take action. I'm proud to stand with responsible stewards of our environment today in applauding President Obama's initiative to limit carbon pollution from power plants. And I look forward to the further implementation of his historic national climate change action plan."
“We’re here today to support the Obama Administration’s rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change,” said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director. “These regulations will help to create jobs, while reducing air pollution and protecting us from the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels. This is even more critical in New Jersey because of what happened with Hurricane Sandy, as well as to get our economy going.”
“As a mother of a boy with asthma I know a lot, perhaps too much, about poor air quality and pollen index levels,” said April Kuzas, Jersey City resident and founder of Hudson County Health Focus. “Last Tuesday was a poor air quality day, and my son's very caring and diligent teacher knew she’d have to limit my son's running and playing for long durations outside - because poor air quality exacerbates asthma. In urban areas, asthma in children is on the rise. Although we can address it on a local level, we need support on the federal level and must support President Obama's plan. As a mom and as a health care advocate, I will not let big money from the coal industry stop me from fighting for my son's right and ability to breathe.”
“Whether or not one disagrees with the cause, there is no disagreement about the devastating and disruptive effects of the extreme weather we have been experiencing,” said Robert Long, Sea Bright resident. “Even if a cleaner environment doesn't help mitigate the extreme weather pattern – which I believe it will – a cleaner environment is a worthy enough goal in and of itself. And that is why I support President Obama’s climate change plan to curb carbon emissions.”
While communities are spending billions on resiliency efforts designed to minimize weather events, we need action at the federal level to address the root cause of climate change. According to both the recently released National Climate Assessment, as well as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth report, 97% of scientists agree that strong steps are necessary when it comes to national and international policies that limit carbon pollution. This is the only way to cut carbon pollution in a manner meaningful enough to combat the most dangerous effects of climate change and extreme weather.
New Jersey is no stranger to the effects of increasingly frequent and intense climate change fueled extreme weather. According to a recent report by the Department of Environmental Protection, 8 of the 10 worst storms in New Jersey history have occurred since 1999, and more events are likely to occur in the coming years. Moreover, 2011 was the wettest year on record. With each passing year, as storms get stronger, more violent and cause more damage – the costs of recovery continue to climb. According to research from Rutgers University, the rise in sea level will approach 16 inches by 2050 and 44 inches by the turn of the century in 2100. The Jersey Shore is predicted to experience floods that today happen only once a century every year or two by the end of century.
Over 2011-2012, Superstorm Sandy and 24 other extreme weather events caused damage in excess of $1 billion each -- $188 billion total – and left more than 1,100 people dead. Sandy was the 2nd costliest hurricane in U.S. history - leaving 131 dead and destroying approximately 380,000 homes. The hurricane first made landfall in the United States in New Jersey – with winds of 80 m.p.h. It created a storm surge that broke the all-time record in New York Harbor. But Sandy isn’t the only instance of extreme weather we’ve seen in recent years. Last Summer, New Jersey endured record heat waves. In 2011, both Hurricane Irene and a wind-driven thunderstorm “derecho” wreaked havoc on the region, and then a blizzard hit the state before Halloween.
Combating climate change should not be a partisan issue, because it is simply common-sense. Just yesterday, former Governor Christie Whitman was one of four former Republican heads of the EPA to testify in front of the U.S. Senate in favor of prompt climate change action. She highlighted how there is scientific consensus around this issue and the need for political consensus. Whitman stepped down as EPA administrator after the Bush White House decided against controlling C02 under the Clean Air Act, as the Obama Administration is currently doing.
Polls consistently show a majority of Americans want climate action immediately. 65% of voters support “the President taking significant steps to address climate change now,” according to a 2013 poll conducted by the League of Conservation Voters. Moreover, a recent United Nations report found that greenhouse gas emissions are reaching catastrophic levels, with 95% certainty that humans are the "dominant cause" of global warming since the 1950s. According to NASA, 97% of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.