The polar ice cap is melting, our ocean is expanding and New Jersey is sinking.

Even if you don’t believe in climate change, you can’t deny what you see or the growing evidence.

Our streets and communities flood more often. Sea level has risen 8 inches since 1900, according to scientific data.

What was once a hypothetical is now a reality. It’s no longer something we can leave to future generations to address.

Earlier this month, we published our first installment of a new series, “Rising Waters.” In it, Staff Writer Michelle Brunetti Post reported on growing concerns of scientists that our seas are transforming our coastline.

Communities need to prepare for the impact on their residents.

The rise of the ocean didn’t spring on us like the opening scene of a disaster movie. It has inched higher over the last century.

After a century of creeping, the ocean is at the doorstep.

The stakes are higher for New Jersey, especially southern New Jersey.

“The greatest sea level rise (from Antarctica’s melting ice) will be felt in the Delaware Estuary and the Chesapeake Estuary,” Rutgers University professor Benjamin P. Horton told a roomful of scientists recently.

In other words, we’re the “hot spot” for sea level rise, Horton told the room, to loud groans.

Post will spend this year exploring sea level rise and its effect on New Jersey. Her goal is to highlight the issue, report on the reality and search for possible solutions.

Our previous projects have tackled childhood hunger, addiction and domestic abuse. Each time, we’ve sought to raise awareness and create a space for deeper conversations. We’ll do that again here.

That conversation needs to begin now. Sea level rise is no longer a future worry, it is here now. In Atlantic City, street flooding is 10 times more prevalent than it was in the 1950s. That rate will only grow unless we find solutions.

Those solutions can no longer be engineering answers alone.

For example, in Miami Beach, a network of pumps and raised roads are a model of protection.

But a recent Harvard University report urges city leaders to adopt a broader defense. Making the city a fortress, it seems, might protect it from flooding, but at risk to its culture and uniqueness.

The solution will be complex, but we need to be looking for it now — because sea level, while measured in inches, is already changing the way we live.

W.F. “Buzz” Keough is managing editor of The Press of Atlantic City.

609-272-7238

wkeough@pressofac.com @buzzkeough

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