A climate opinion map released recently by Yale University shows how New Jersey residents living along and near the coast think about climate change, as well as how local views compare to those nationwide.
Turns out, living closer to the water doesn’t always equate to more concern.
Among the findings: 60 percent of Cape May County residents are worried about climate change, but only 37 percent think it will harm them personally, both below the national average.
In Atlantic County, the results are similar. Sixty-five percent are worried about global warming, 43 percent say it will harm them personally and 74 percent believe their children are in danger.
“We see a general trend of counties in coastal areas having residents that are more worried about this topic,” said Dr. Peter Howe, an assistant professor of human-environment geography at Utah State University who worked on the project.
You don’t have to be a scientist to see that coastal flooding, rising water temperatures, and more frequent and intense storms are the new norm. Whether you believe it or not, know this: The changes in our environment are leading to greater costs in how we live.
People who rely on the ocean for a living are feeling the effects of climate change now. Fish have responded to a gradual increase in the ocean’s temperature by slowly migrating northward and deeper into colder waters. By 2100, the habitat for black sea bass is expected to shift 300 miles farther north, according to a Rutgers University-led study from 2017.
The result is an increase in the number of miles traveled by commercial fishermen seeking their catch.
Also, communities are spending more money to raise streets, build pumping stations and raising homes. And still, home values aren’t keeping up.
New Jersey has foregone $4.5 billion in appreciation of home values since 2005 because of flooding related to sea-level rise, and Ocean City has missed out on more than any other municipality in eight coastal states, according to a study by the nonprofit First Street Foundation.
Climate change has an impact on our region in other ways. For example, rising sea level is turning small storms into big problems for island and coastal communities, and creating nuisances on days when the sun may be out. A warming climate is responsible for most of that rise, causing ocean water to expand and glaciers to melt.
Sea level in New Jersey is rising faster than the global average — particularly along the shore — because of geological conditions, according to Rutgers University. It has risen 12 inches at bedrock locations such as Bayonne, Trenton and Camden and 16 inches along the shore from Sandy Hook to Cape May.
All these actions cost money — fishermen fork out more for fuel to chase fish further out, shore residents shell out more for flood insurance or to rebuild after devastating storms.
There are efforts, both public and private, that are attempting to address these challenges. But residents up and down the coast have to acknowledge the threat and help move us forward. The price of ignorance is too great.