UN’s Climate Crisis Report & What This Means for Jersey City
By now, you may have heard of the pressing climate news from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body of highly endorsed scientists. The nearly 4,000-page climate crisis report represents years of research on the science related to climate change, authored by more than 200 scientists from over 60 countries and cities. It details the current understanding of climate change since 2013, how humans have altered the climate, and what the future could look like if we continue down the same path.
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But what implications does the IPCC report have for Jersey City? We will dive deeper into what this means for you and how you can help address climate change at the local level as a resident. But first, let’s look at the key takeaways from the report you should be aware of:
- The planet has been increasingly getting warmer and unstable due to an increase in human-caused greenhouse emissions. As a result, the report stated, “the last four decades have been warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850.”
- Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Moreover, changes are accelerating; we are seeing carbon dioxide levels going up faster than ever. As a result, climate change now affects every continent, region and ocean on Earth and every facet of the weather.
- Many of these changes are not reversible in our lifetimes, such as melting the icecaps and sea-level rises.
- We will cross the 1.5C warming threshold (pledge target of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement) around 2030, a decade earlier than previously thought.
The report also noted that there is hope if we make immediate cuts in carbon emissions. Every little bit of warming counts, and every bit you can stop counts too. Let’s look at how climate change affects Jersey City and what actions are being taken at the city and the grassroots level to help fight it.
How Climate Change is Impacting Jersey City
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In Jersey City, like the rest of New Jersey, we are facing increased heat and flooding. According to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), New Jersey is one of the fastest-warming areas globally, with a 3.5-degree increase in average temperature since the 1890s, compared to the world average increase of 1.5 degrees for the same period. As a result, we can see both average annual temperatures and extreme weather events increase by 2050. If you’re interested in reading more information about the effects of climate change in New Jersey, check out the 2020 New Jersey Scientific Report on Climate Change, published by the New Jersey DEP.
The city has several adaptation plans to combat climate change, including the Climate and Energy Action Plan (CEAP), which was passed by the City Council this spring and is now an element of the City’s Master Plan. CEAP is a detailed and strategic framework for measuring, planning, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The city is also working on another important project, The Resilient Northeastern NJ Project, which reduces flood risk in Jersey City, Newark, Hoboken, and Bayonne. There will be a public meeting this fall if you’re interested in participating. Find out more information about the project and sign up for updates here.
In positive news, the city has reduced emissions through energy efficiency updates to municipal buildings (24 so far retrofitted), solar arrays on city buildings, resiliency planning, and the integration of electric vehicles in the city fleet. Additionally, the city is working to reduce emissions within the community by improving alternative transportation options and installing green infrastructure.
Sustainable JC – A Look into Urban Heat Islands
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There are several nonprofit organizations in Jersey City working to educate the community about Climate Change and helping to combat it. Sustainable Jersey City (SJC), a local nonprofit organization, pushing Jersey City towards a more sustainable future, has been working hard to address “Urban Heat Islands” impacts in Jersey City. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Urban Heat Islands (UHI) are areas or metropolitan areas significantly warmer than their surrounding rural areas due to human activities. This effect is very prevalent in Jersey City. “The Greenville and Bergen-Lafayette neighborhoods can be 16 to 21°F hotter than Liberty State Park due to the UHI effect,” said Debra Italiano, founder of SJC. Extreme heat also worsens air quality, impacting people with respiratory ailments. Therefore, we must take action to protect our community from the impacts of extreme heat.
An effective way to reduce the impacts of UHI is to increase the tree canopies of neighborhoods to minimize the heat-trapping effects of paved surfaces. Through a grassroots initiative, SJC aims to improve Jersey City’s air quality by a tree mapping and canopy restoration campaign called “We Can’t Manage What We Don’t Measure.” They also measure Jersey City’s temperatures and air quality. This fall, SJC will present visual results to the public, empowering communities and municipal decision-makers to act and curb extreme heat impacts.
To understand how the Urban Heat Island effect and incidence of extreme heat impact your neighborhood, connect with Sustainable JC to know when their Heat Watch and Air Quality campaign results are available. They are also always looking for volunteers, which can be a great way to help fight climate change.
How You Can Help Combat Climate Change
While combating extreme heat requires extensive public-private-non-profit partnerships, there are steps that residents can take to accelerate these efforts. Individuals can act at the personal, social, and institutional levels to help.
We had the pleasure to speak with Dr. D. James Baker, Former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who shared how individuals can act at the local level to address climate change. “We learned a vital lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is we are affected as a global population, but it is at the individual level we need to make decisions,” said Dr. Baker. The more individuals can act, the more chance there is for collective action to make a difference.
Depending on what you are comfortable with, you can get involved at the grassroots, city, or personal level to help make an impact. For example, you can join local grassroots initiatives such as Sustainable JC’s tree mapping and canopy restoration campaign or join local parks organizations working to protect green spaces in the city. You can also take personal actions such as replacing lights in your home with LEDs and reducing food and energy waste. Joining city public meetings to voice your concerns is a great way to get involved with climate change initiatives. Figure out what you can offer and reach out to local organizations that are always looking for help.
Additionally, below are ways you can help cut down carbon emissions at the local level:
- Plant and take care of your street trees. Water them regularly, add mulch to planting sites for helping retain moisture, protect the bark from damage, and report any tree-related issues at See Click Fix.
- Reduce your carbon footprint by walking, biking and taking public transit whenever possible. Using Citibike is a great way to get around Jersey City.
- Residents can reduce emissions from waste by composting their food waste through the city’s composting program and donating unwanted clothing and household objects instead of throwing them out.
- Consider purchasing a community solar subscription. Community solar projects help increase solar-generated energy and reduce the amount of fossil-fuel-generated energy. For example, Power Market andSolar Landscape have solar community projects serving Jersey City.
- Look into cool roofs. Homeowners and building associations can invest in reflective roofs or rooftop gardens to reduce the heat absorbed by the structure. Energy-efficient appliances, insulation and lighting also help to mitigate building-related emissions. The NJDEP has a good list of recommendations on the types of cool roofs available and other helpful suggestions for lowering costs by using energy more efficiently.
We hope this article helped break down the critical points of the latest IPCC report and how it relates to you as a Jersey City resident. We hope you feel encouraged to help fight climate change. For additional information and the latest updates, follow JC Make it Green @jcmakeitgreen and Sustainable JC @sustainablejc.