Eight Years After Sandy, NJ is More Vulnerable for the Next Superstorm

Eight Years After Sandy, NJ is More Vulnerable for the Next Superstorm

Today marks the 8th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Sandy was supposed to be a 1-in-100-year storm, but now it is predicted major storms will increase 1 in every 25 years because of sea level rise. This year has already been a record-breaking year for natural disasters. The 2020 Hurricane season has also broken multiple records, with 22 named storms the earliest to form on record. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concludes that global net human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) need to fall by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

“It has been 8 years since Hurricane Sandy. Since then, the chance of having another has greatly increased and New Jersey has become more vulnerable for the next superstorm. Instead of working to make our state more resilient and protected from storms, DEP has weakened standards and allowed for more development in vulnerable areas. We are not moving forward with a sense of urgency on reducing climate impacts and GHG’s. Not only have we not learned our lesson after Sandy, we are doing just the opposite,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “New Jersey is one of the most vulnerable states to sea level rise and flooding and it is getting worse. We cannot just bury our head in the sand like an ostrich because another storm like Sandy will come and knock us over.”

The Department of Environmental Protection released a new study projecting dramatic sea-level rise in New Jersey. According to the report, sea-level in New Jersey could rise from 2000 levels by up to 1.1 feet by 2030, 2.1 feet by 2050, and 6.3 feet by 2100, underscoring the urgency of the Murphy Administration’s adaptation work to make the state more resilient to the effects of climate change. The report also shows that New Jersey has already been disproportionately affected by climate change—sea-level rise projections in New Jersey are more than two times the global average.

“New Jersey is one of the fastest warming states in the country. These temperature increases leave New Jersey more vulnerable to flooding and fires. We are seeing climate impacts every day with chronic flooding, storm surges, and sea level rise. Water pollution and rising temperatures have led to algal blooms closing our biggest lakes, like Lake Hopatcong, and invasive clinging jellyfish overtaking our waterways like Barnegat Bay,” said Tittel.

According to a new report published by Climate Central and Zillow, Recent housing growth rates are faster in ten-year flood-risk zones in a third of all coastal states. This report was updated in July 2019 with new data. New Jersey is developing risk zones more than 2x faster than safer locations and are top 3 for allowing the most homes in risk zones, more than 9,000 since 2010.

“We are in a climate emergency and we need REAL action by the Murphy Administration. New Jersey is top two in the nation as the most vulnerable state when it comes to sea level rise and climate change. According to a Zillow report, 282,354 homes in New Jersey are at risk of 10-Year Flood Inundation by 2050. Streets are going underwater during full moons. Sewers are backing up, and even on sunny days flooding is occurring on high tides. Sea level rise has caused some of our land to sink and salt water intrusion into our groundwater. Rutgers predicts the coast will see a 1-foot increase in sea level by 2050,” said Tittel.

A new study based on data from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows New Jersey with 9 communities among those in the nation with the greatest percentage of homes at risk of chronic flooding by 2060 and 2100. Hoboken is ranked No. 2 on the list, trailing only Miami Beach, Florida. Atlantic City is ranked No. 3. The report was produced by 24/7 Wall Street, and ranked the 35 cities most threatened by sea-level rise. New Jersey is also number 1 when it comes to states with most homes in 10 year flood risk zone.

“We are still building in vulnerable areas and granting permits under Christie-era regulations that don’t protect against climate change or storm impacts. Some of the worst areas for flood risk are in Ocean County where they are just growing and building. Other areas in New Jersey like Cape May County, Monmouth County, Avalon, and more have built the most new houses in risk zones in the nation,” said Tittel. “Governor Murphy signed an Executive Order for a statewide climate change resiliency plan but with no implementation. It is not strong enough when it comes to being mitigation and adaption. Now that the Murphy administration have more facts on the imminent danger of sea level rise and climate impacts, they need to do something about it.”

Shawn LaTourette who is now the DEP Deputy Commissioner, revealed in a Spotlight interview that DEP would not regulate to protect against climate impacts. He commented that although developers and builders fear the new rules will tighten limits on where they can build in coastal and inland areas, the regulations are unlikely to do that. Instead of increasing regulations on building on flood prone areas, DEP will require builders to do a climate impact analysis for a new property.

“Superstorm Sandy reminds of the failure of our coastal programs and DEP’s new plan will just make it worse. The Murphy Administration needs to move forward when it comes to climate change and flooding. We need to integrate climate change in all of DEP’s regulatory programs. We must update our adaptation for sea-level mitigation programs, our shore protection plan, fix CAFRA loopholes and have a Coastal Commission. The DEP must also update new FEMA flood maps for sea level rise, update building codes, and start to implement adaptation and hazard planning as part of their resiliency model. We need to be using the NOAA flood maps on sea level rise regulating a 500 year storm since we are seeing 100 year storms every 2 years. We also need better mapping on sea-level rise to make sure we’re building and rebuilding in the right places. We need to plan for the coast, such as where to elevate, where to buyout, and where to retreat,” said Tittel.

Climate change is happening and happening even faster. UN Climate Report warns of a global tipping point by 2030 so it is even more important to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as we can. Our state has the ability to regulate greenhouse gasses but has yet to do so. If the DEP were to begin regulating, including a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects, we could prevent making climate impacts worse.

“DEP has failed to adequately regulate C02, short term methane and move forward on reductions to get to 100% renewable energy. In order to fight climate change be reducing greenhouse gasses, we must take bold action against fossil fuels. That is why Governor Murphy must put in place a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects. There are over a dozen fossil fuel projects proposed in New Jersey that would increase GHGs by over 32%. We need to be focusing on renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, that does not release harmful pollution that exacerbate the effects of climate change,” said Tittel. “Governor Murphy talks a lot about climate change, but other states are running circles around him. Gov. Cuomo and Gov. Inslee are going 100% carbon free by 2040 and by 2030. Eight states are going 100% renewable by 2050, even states with Republican governors like Maryland, Vermont, and Mass. are moving quicker on electric vehicles and regulating CO2.”

The Trump Administration is making our situation worse by attacking the environment and climate change protections on a national level. He has weakened 24 air pollution rules He pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement and disbanded the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. He also revoked Obama-era orders to make infrastructure and building standards incorporate sea level rise and flooding projections. He has eliminated the Clean Power Plan, revoked the California Clean Waiver Rule, and increased limits on methane leaks.

“New Jersey needs to be ready for the next storm, especially when President Trump is creating his own storm against the environment. On the Anniversary of Sandy, we know that another storm will hit New Jersey. Our state is still dragging its feet and we must take extreme actions to plan for climate change and sea level rise. We must stop unnecessary pipelines, and fossil fuel expansion by committing to 100% renewable energy by 2050,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Saying that we are stronger than the next storm gives people false hope. It’s not about being stronger, it’s about adapting, adjusting, mitigating, and reducing GHG’s and climate impacts.”

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