Climate Change in NJ: Increased Temperatures Affecting the Garden State

In the last century, New Jersey has become three degrees warmer. According to the New Jersey Herald, David Robinson, a New Jersey climatologist and Professor at Rutgers, explained “The long and short of it is we are one of the fastest-warming states.”

But climate science — including information from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) — helps professionals and residents understand the effects of climate change, what leads to these changes, and possible interventions. In the 2020 New Jersey Scientific Report on Climate Change (June 30, 2020), researchers gathered information to showcase how New Jersey has changed since 1890 and the state’s climate trajectory until 2050.

According to data from this publication, in the 1890s, greenhouse gas concentrations began increasing, causing the state’s average temperature to climb by 3.5° F. It’s now expected that, by 2050, we’ll see temperatures continue to increase by 4.1 to 5.7° F.

But what makes New Jersey one of the worst states for climate change? has some ideas. Ranking only below Delaware, New Jersey broke into the “top 10 states with the most polluted river and stream in 2020,” with 95% of the state’s river and stream feeling these effects.

Water pollution directly affects climate change and according to “Water Pollution: Effects, Prevention, and Climatic Impact” from the edited volume of Water Challenges of an Urbanizing World, human activity plays a role in “weather, climate, and the environment.” Some human activities have a more catastrophic effect than others. Yes, the environment by and large has some protective resiliency, but a lot of what humans throw at it comes in exorbitant amounts, the old adage of “everything in moderation” falling by the wayside. And water pollution is an example of climate change largely brought on by humans.

Water quality suffers as harmful contaminants are introduced into drinking water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), effects range from gastrointestinal illness to cancer. Residents with well water can work to keep the ground near their wells free from debris and harmful chemicals including pesticides and fertilizers. Households with wells and public water can install water filtration systems or other water treatment systems. There are preventative measures to reduce pollution in local waterways, as water pollution from synthetic toxic chemicals and by-products can “generate some toxic and greenhouses gases, which may subsequently contribute to global warming activities or more severe environmental threats,” as explained by “Water Pollution: Effects, Prevention, and Climatic Impact.”

But climate change also affects other water sources, namely the ocean and sea animals. This includes lobsters, sea scallops, oysters, surf clams, and quahog. According to the National Ocean Service, acidification is reduced pH levels stemming from excess levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. When sea animals experience a decrease in ocean pH levels, they struggle to create calcium carbonate shells. Their behavior and development are also impacted, with important bodily functions paying the price. This includes reproduction, metabolism, and swimming, as reported by Rutgers’ New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Additionally, migratory species of animals are particularly affected and experiencing low rates of reproduction.

Since open areas such as fields and forests offer cooling effects, areas laden with concrete and asphalt contribute to temperature spikes. As such, urban areas are more likely to have heat waves, something expected to worsen as temperatures continue to rise. This strains agriculture, the efficiency of power plants, water usage, air pollution, energy consumption, and more, continuing to exacerbate climate change. However, being aware of these rising temperatures allows scientists to create pathways forward.