The Garden State in the Greenhouse: Climate Change Mitigation and Coastal Adaptation Strategies for New Jersey

Climate change poses a significant threat to New Jersey’s economic, social and environmental future. In the absence of federal leadership, states must take the lead on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise and increasingly frequent and damaging storms.

New Jersey has already taken many important steps toward a responsible climate change policy, such as the Governor’s recent appointment of a Director of Energy Savings. However, the scale of the problem and its potential consequences for the state mean that more and bolder steps are required to preserve the quality of life in New Jersey now and in the future.

This report outlines a strategy for moving toward an adequate response to climate change while at the same time advancing the State’s economic growth. New Jersey should enact innovative strategies that will not only reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protect its coastline, but will also bring new industries, technologies and jobs to the state. To accomplish this, the State should take action in six major areas:

1. Establish New Jersey’s regional and national leadership on climate change by:

  • Announcing and implementing a mandatory 2020 GHG emissions cap and an ambitious 2050 emissions reduction target through an economy-wide cap-and-trade system, enhanced efficiency measures and incorporation of emission reduction goals into State planning, purchasing and other activities;
  • Creating a Climate Change Division within the Office of Economic Growth to direct all emissions reduction and adaptation research in collaboration with a high-level inter-agency task force and with input from a stakeholder advisory council; and
  • Launching and leading a network of “Cool States” committed to reducing emissions based on legally binding caps and hosting a TransAtlantic summit on climate change that would bring together policy-makers, business leaders and clean energy technology innovators from Europe, Canada, and the US to exchange best practices, promote technological advances and showcase investment and business opportunities.

​2. Link climate change policies to economic growth and workforce development by:

  • Capitalizing on New Jersey’s competitive advantages in high-tech businesses to cultivate a clean energy sector through an explicit focus on clean energy businesses at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) as well as the State’s innovation funds and incubators;
  • Creating a “green jobs” track within the State’s community college vocational training system and working with non-profit organizations and trade unions to link residents in high-unemployment areas to training and placement in green building construction, installation and maintenance of energy-efficient and renewable energy equipment and auto-mechanic services for hybrid and plug-in vehicles; and
  • Increasing demand for clean and green jobs through the strategic use of State incentives; and
  • Establish a “Green Gold” pilot program in the city of Newark that would lower the energy costs of residents and businesses, support green building standards in new construction, and train and place under- and unemployed workers in green construction, installation and maintenance jobs in the city and regionally.

3. Boost energy efficiency gains through:

  • An energy use surcharge balanced by a reduction in corporate payroll tax for state businesses;
  • Enhanced incentives for residents to purchase energy-efficient equipment;
  • Demand-Side Management to align incentives of energy distributors with efficiency rather than sales; and
  • Increased funding (through auctioning 100 percent of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative emissions allowances) and improved targeting of funds in the State’s Clean Energy Program for cost-effective emissions reduction.

4. Make transportation more efficient and make development smarter by:

  • Making reductions in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) an explicit goal of State planning documents and more aggressively promoting transit-oriented planning and development; and
  • Promoting alternative fuels and encouraging increased fuel efficiency standards, starting with the State’s vehicle fleet and vehicles used by local governments and schools.

5. Improve State preparedness for sea level rise and increased frequency & intensity of storms by:

  • Producing vulnerability assessments and cost-benefit reports evaluating the impact of climate change on the coasts and incorporating the findings into NJDEP rules and State and local planning, land use and public investment decisions;
  • Ensuring that emergency management plans account for projections about rising sea levels and storms;
  • Enhancing pre-storm planning for post-storm management, including strategic land preservation and guidelines for whether, where and how to rebuild following storm damage; and
  • Partnering with the insurance industry to shield coastal residents from catastrophic losses.

6. Increase Public Awareness about Climate Change Impacts and Support for State Action by:

  • Creating a statewide awareness campaign that includes a user-friendly website and advertisements in print and broadcast media; and
  • Taking immediate steps to ensure that education about climate change in New Jersey’s public schools is continued and expanded.

Connecticut SB No. 1013: Special Act 13-9: An Act Concerning Climate Change Adaptation and Data Collection

Section 1. (Effective from passage) Not later than February 15, 2014, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and The University of Connecticut shall, in accordance with section 11-4a of the general statutes, report to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the environment on the joint efforts of said department and university to establish a Connecticut Center for Coasts. Such report shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. A detailed description of the mission for such a center that shall include, at a minimum, conducting research, outreach and education projects to guide the development of technologies and regulatory provisions that increase the protection of ecosystems, coastal properties and other lands and attributes of the state that are subject to the effects of rising sea levels,
  2. the proposed governance of such center, including appointment of a center director, establishment of an advisory board and the requisite staffing level for such center,
  3. a plan for the center's performance of:
  • (A) Mapping exercises to assess and visualize key characteristics of shoreline resiliency, such as shoreline changes,
  • (B) pilot-scale engineering and impact assessment studies,
  • (C) consensus building efforts to determine state-wide uniform guidelines for planning and development purposes, including the expected rate of sea level rise for the next one hundred years,
  • (D) ways to develop state-wide, science-based planning and management alternatives,
  • (E) development in science and information-based outreach and technology transfer programs for state and local agencies and officials involved in planning and development,
  • (F) an assessment of soft shore protection strategies in Long Island Sound and the development of instructional guides for the use of such soft shore protection strategies,
  • (G) a comprehensive coastal infrastructure inventory and risk assessment,
  • (H) an analysis of the impact of seawalls in urban and rural communities,
  • (I) the development of uniform, state-wide models that predict inundation flood scenarios under slow, constant sea level rise and under storm surges,
  • (J) projects that lead to the development of rapid storm damage assessment technology,
  • (K) developing design guidelines for the construction and repair of seawalls, and
  • (L) developing tools for determining appropriate shore protection strategies and providing coastal protection information to a diverse range of end users,

  4. a listing of the existing university and department resources that will be utilized in the performance of the center's responsibilities and a description of the specific ways in which each resource will be used to perform such responsibilities, and (5) the sources and amounts of funding that the department and university, either jointly or individually, intend to secure or secured for the purpose of establishing such center.

Caltrans Activities to Address Climate Change Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Adapting to Impacts

This report provides a comprehensive overview of activities undertaken by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt the state’s transportation system to prepare for the impacts of climate change. It also identifies opportunities for additional reductions in GHG emissions and climate adaptation activities that Caltrans may wish to consider in the future.

The goals of the report are to:

  • Help spread information about best practices in GHG mitigation and climate change adaptation among Caltrans staff working in different divisions and districts, as well as among other transportation agencies;
  • Aid staff at other state agencies in identifying potential opportunities for collaboration with Caltrans in efforts to meet statewide GHG reduction and energy efficiency targets; and
  • Inform the public about the status of Caltrans’ initiatives to address climate change.

The report qualitatively discusses activities that are underway across Caltrans divisions and districts, and provides quantitative information on GHG reduction initiatives wherever possible.

Climate Change Adaptation Guide for Transportation Systems Management, Operations, and Maintenance

This guide provides information and resources to help transportation management, operations, and maintenance staff incorporate climate change into their planning and ongoing activities. It is intended for practitioners involved in the day-to-day management, operations, and maintenance of surface transportation systems at State and local agencies. The guide assists State departments of transportation (DOTs) and other transportation agencies in understanding the risks that climate change poses and actions that can help reduce those risks. Incorporating climate change considerations into how agencies plan and execute their transportation system management and operations (TSMO) and maintenance programs helps the agency become more resilient to unanticipated shocks to the system. Adjustments to TSMO and maintenance programs—ranging from minor to major changes—can help to minimize the current and future risks to effective TSMO and maintenance.

Preliminary Study of Climate Adaptation for the Statewide Transportation System in Arizona

This research study presents recommendations for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to continue working toward being more resilient, flexible, and responsive to the effects of global climate change. The main objectives were to identify key individuals within ADOT with decisionmaking authority relevant in incorporating climate change adaptation in planning, design, and operations; review literature and best practices for climate change adaptation as relevant to the desert Southwest; develop a research agenda for ADOT to further understand the impacts of climate change on the agency (including a knowledge-mapping exercise using an online survey questionnaire, structured interviews, and focus groups); and identify key areas for further research.

By initiating this study, there is already an internal interest and momentum at ADOT for climate adaptation planning. Without institutional support, however, it will be difficult to continue forward with the research agenda in a more extensive study. To move beyond a preliminary assessment, ADOT will have to find ways to bring its lessons learned to the forefront and into the national spotlight. This study reveals that ADOT already experiences extreme heat and dust storms, and thus it will be the first to develop tools and techniques that can be applied to other states and regions that will experience climate impacts that Arizona will face first. The study provides some recommendations for ADOT to tap into the national dialogue on climate adaptatio

Municipal Adaptation to Sea-Level Rise: City of Satellite Beach, Florida

It is now widely accepted global sea level will rise a meter or more by the year 2100, yet prior to this investigation no local government along the east-central Florida coast had begun to seriously address the potential consequences of concomitant erosion and inundation. In the fall of 2009, the City of Satellite Beach (City), Florida, authorized a project designed to: (1) assess municipal vulnerability to rising sea level and (2) initiate the planning process to properly mitigate impacts.

Results indicate about 5% of the City landscape will submerge during the initial +2 ft (0.6 m) rise, with inundation generally restricted to fringing wetlands and finger canal margins proximal to the Banana River. At +4 ft (1.2 m), 25% of the City is submerged including South Patrick Drive, one of two major transportation corridors through the City. Residential areas in the north- (c.f. Pelican Coast) and south-west corners of the City are subject to limited inundation. At an elevation of +6 ft (1.8 m), 52% of the City is underwater including the entire western half centered on South Patrick Drive. Much of the Pelican Coast neighborhood is submerged, as are residential areas located in the southwest portion of the City. The function of “critical assets” (i.e., fire/rescue), designated emergency evacuation routes (i.e., South Patrick Drive), and the gravity driven storm-water system is compromised proportional to the magnitude of rise.

Based primarily upon the City’s hypsographic curve, the “tipping point” towards catastrophic inundation is +2 ft (0.6 m), forecast to occur around 2050. Thus, the City has about 40 years to formulate and implement a mitigation plan. The City appears likely to respond through adaptive management. This is an on-going and iterative process that specifies one or more essential actions necessary to reduce the vulnerability to rising seas. As an initial step, the Comprehensive Planning Advisory Board, a volunteer citizen committee serving as the City’s local planning authority, has approved a series of updates and revisions to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. If approved by the City Council, the amendments will provide a legal basis for implementing an adaptive management plan and specific actions designed to mitigate the City’s vulnerability to sea-level rise.

MTA Adaptations to Climate Change A Categorical Imperative

For organizations to survive, flourish and deliver public services, they must adapt to changing conditions and demands. Climate change is such a demand. Already it has impacted MTA facilities and operations, and will do more so during this century and beyond. The climate-induced change of the physical environment necessitates that MTA find an effective way to adapt its infrastructure, operations, and policies. This chapter provides a risk-based framework for adaptations to climate change. A risk-based, systematic approach to adaptation is important now because of the long lifetimes of urban infrastructure, long planning horizons, and the significant social, economic, and environmental risks faced by urban coastal areas already. New Orleans and hurricane Katrina are an extreme case in a special location far from the MTA service area, but they can serve as a wake-up call: lack of preventive action in the face of known threats can lead to unacceptable losses and outcomes. But not just such extreme events need attention. More frequent seemingly lesser events cause considerable disruptions and losses, as demonstrated by the modest storm of Aug 8, 2007 (MTA 2007). It severely disrupted much of the region’s mass transit. In addition, MTA facilities face a long-term threat from rising sea levels and higher storm surges.

Adaptation measures fall into different categories, and may follow distinct timelines and decision paths: first, a general adaptation policy needs to be adopted to guide the MTA leadership and MTA agencies in their adaptation efforts. It should include the mandate to develop a set of general performance standards for its facilities and operations vis-à-vis climate change; the implementation of these policies will require, in turn, agency-wide vulnerability assessments of the MTA’s physical assets and operations; an engineering- based feasibility assessment of remediation options with estimates of the economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits associated with the various risk reduction measures; MTA actions may require extensive cooperation and integration with other stakeholders, agencies, governments, communities and planning organizations.

These emerging adaptation plans will need to be fully integrated into the fiscal planning process, including preparation of long-range capital spending plans. The planning process will need to develop solutions for different time horizons: a short- term horizon for the next decade or less; a mid-range horizon of several decades; and a long-range preview on the order of a century or even longer. Such long time horizons typically apply to long-lasting infrastructure (e.g. bridges, tunnels, rights-of-way). On these longer time scales some climate-change-related threats (e.g. sea level rise and related storm surge inundations) could become severe and may require much more broadly based (regional, multi-agency) land-use and urban planning solutions than the shorter time horizon’s tasks demand. The National Academies (2008) have issued a report that outlines a framework for climate change adaptation specifically aimed at the transportation sector. It provides valuable information and generic guidance.

Some major regional adaptation measures (e.g. whether to consider regional storm barrier systems or not) constitute substantial policy issues that will require full coordination and joint actions with many levels of government and with stakeholders in the public and private sector, since larger and very fundamental social, economic and environmental issues related to land-use, urban planning and sustainability of entire communities and their livelihoods are at stake, if not those of the entire City and metropolitan region.

Climate risks to coastal urban areas largely stem from temperature rise, changes in precipitation, and sea level rise (SLR) and consequent higher storm surges. They manifest themselves by the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme events including heat waves, droughts, river and street flooding, and storm- and sea-level-rise-induced coastal flooding. Some of the MTA systems are more vulnerable than others: low-lying fixed structures such as below-sea-level road- or subway-tunnels, or near-sea-level railroad tracks, rail yards and shops are more prone to coastal and urban street flooding than bus routes that can be readily rerouted on short notice according to flood conditions.

In planning for adaptation, it is important to recognize that there is no “one size fits all” approach. For given expectations about climate change, different adaptations are appropriate for different types of facilities and their different life spans or criticalities. Rail yards, for example, may need hard protection against rising sea levels and storm surges, whereas other facilities, such as recreation areas, open space, and parking lots, can be allowed to flood temporarily at acceptable frequencies. A facility that will last for 20 years may not require significant adaptation now, whereas a substantial transportation facility with a lifetime of 100+ years and tied to a given right of way will require important adaptation elements with a well planned schedule. The timing of adaptations will differ according to rehabilitation and replacement cycles in addition to magnitude of risk exposure as, in general, adaptations to climate hazards are less expensive when undertaken as part of otherwise needed rehabilitation, replacement, or expansions.

The most challenging decisions may be those where MTA programs are tied to landuse-, community-, urban and regional planning that at some point in time may require the abandonment of land, real estate, or rights of way used for generations, or may need radical and expensive measures to raise or otherwise protect the infrastructure and/or communities from the risk of rising waters. As the last resort, options may include relocation and may require new rights-of-way at safer elevations.

This Adaptation Chapter expands on these general ideas as they apply to MTA facilities, operations, capital planning procedures, and related policies.

Addressing Climate Change Adaptation in Regional Transportation Plans A Guide for California MPOs and RTPAs

The reality of a changing climate means that transportation and planning agencies need to understand the potential effects of changes in storm activity, sea levels, temperature, and precipitation patterns; and develop strategies to ensure the continuing robustness and resilience of transportation infrastructure and services. This is a relatively new challenge for California’s MPOs and RTPAs – adding yet one more consideration to an already complex and multifaceted planning process. In that light, this guide is intended to support planning agencies in incorporating the risks of climate change impacts into their existing decision-making, complementing the broader planning and investment processes that MPOs and RTPAs already manage.

This guide was designed to account for the varying capacities and resources among MPOs and RTPAs, featuring methods that can be used by organizations seeking to conduct a more sketch-level assessment of the risk and vulnerability of the regional transportation assets to climate impacts, or in-depth analysis that incorporates separate stakeholder processes and geospatial analyses. It is oriented to provide information for two types of audiences.

  • A Basic User, a MPO or RTPA conducting climate impact assessments and/or climate vulnerability and risk assessments for the very first time. This pathway is appropriate for agencies with limited resources and GIS capability.
  • An Advanced User, a MPO or RTPA that has experience with climate impact assessments, has strong interagency partnerships with universities, natural resources agencies or public works departments and have more staff resources and technical tools to dedicate to the effort.

For both of these user types, this guide is a resource to help MPOs and RTPAs to: 

  • Assess the relative risks to their transportation system infrastructure and services of different climate stressors (sea-level rise, temperature changes, precipitation changes, extreme weather events); 
  • Conduct an asset inventory and vulnerability assessment of existing infrastructure;
  • Incorporate climate impact considerations into future long-range transportation planning and investment decisions.

Currently, there is no requirement to date to incorporate climate adaptation into regional transportation planning. Nevertheless, this guide provides information and tools to help MPOs/RTPAs anticipate the incorporation of climate assessment and adaptation into future planning efforts.

Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation Strategies into New York State Department of Transportation’s Operations: Final Report

This study identifies climate change adaptation strategies and recommends ways of mainstreaming them into planned actions, including legislation, policies, programs and projects in all areas and at all levels within the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). In accomplishing its goal, the study team relied on: a literature review; discussions with key NYSDOT personnel based on a Climate Risk Information Summary worksheet; information from other ongoing and completed projects in climate change adaptation, especially those in the New York region; and advice and guidance from the NYSDOT‘s Technical Working Group and Columbia‘s Advisory Working Group for the project. The results of the project are presented (following the Introduction) in terms of: the current understanding of climate change science and climate futures for New York State; climate change impacts and vulnerabilities to transportation in NYS; adaptation strategies and best practices; potential adaptation strategies for mainstreaming climate change into the NYSDOT‘s operations and investment, including the detailed results of climate risk management discussions with personnel from 2 Divisions, 12 Offices, and 1 Region; and a communications and technology transfer plan.

Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails: Public Transportation and Climate Change Adaptation

The objective of this project is to provide transit professionals with information and analysis relevant to adapting U.S. public transportation assets and services to climate change impacts. Climate impacts such as heat waves and flooding will hinder agencies’ ability to achieve goals such as attaining a state of good repair and providing reliability and safety. The report examines anticipated climate impacts on U.S. transit and current climate change adaptation efforts by domestic and foreign transit agencies. It further examines the availability of vulnerability assessment, risk management, and adaptation planning tools as well as their applicability to public transportation agencies. The report provides examples of adaptation strategies and discusses how transit agencies might incorporate climate change adaptation into their organizational structures and existing activities such as asset management systems, planning, and emergency response. By focusing specifically on public transportation, and the unique assets, circumstances, and operations of that mode, the report supplements transportation sector wide studies whose scopes did not allow for more in-depth treatment of transit.