2016-2017 Academic Year

News in August 2017

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the New York University Stern Center for Sustainable Business have released Catalyzing Green Infrastructure on Private Property: Recommendations for a Green, Equitable, and Sustainable New York City with recommendations for stimulating wide spread use of green infrastructure on private property, in order to help reduce stormwater runoff from existing development. The report presents an innovative approach to a large-scale green infrastructure grant program, which can be adapted by cities around the country, and which engages not only the private sector but also community-based organizations and the affordable housing sector. It also offers ways to leverage green infrastructure retrofit efforts with other local green building and sustainability initiatives that address private property.

Here Comes The Sun: A State Policy Handbook For Distributed Solar Energy is a new handbook from the National Conference of State Legislatures designed for state legislators, legislative staff, energy officials, and others who want to learn about and assess their state’s distributed solar photovoltaic policies. It provides tools to investigate options and practices to leverage the economic and reliability benefits of solar energy while addressing the challenges presented by this localized approach to energy generation.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released A Century of Wildland Fire Research: Contributions to Long-term Approaches for Wildland Fire Management: Proceedings of a Workshop. Changes in geology, ecology, hydrology, and climate have created challenges towards managing wildland fires. This report focuses on how a century of wildland fire research can contribute to improving wildfire management, summarizing the presentations and discussions from the workshop.

Congratulations to RCI affiliate Pam McElwee author of Forests are Gold: Trees, People and Environmental Rule in Vietnam for winning the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) Book Prize for the best academic book on Southeast Asia published in the social sciences.  Read more about Professor McElwee’s book and award here.

RCI affiliate Malin Pinsky discusses ongoing research on the northward migration of marine organisms in NJMonthly. Warming ocean temperatures are playing a role in what is described as an ‘indisputable trend northward and downward (to greater depths)’. One local example includes the black sea bass, which has forsaken its traditional home off the coast of Virginia for waters off of New Jersey. The movement of marine wildlife has economic consequences for coastal fisheries, a cost that smaller operations can not easily take on.

Delaware Bay oysters are seeing a resurgence in recent years following the spread of the parasite Dermo in the 1990s. While the industry hopes for the best, RCI affiliate Daphne Munroe says climate change will bring new uncertainties into a shaky industry. Dermo thrives in waters with high salinity, but as sea levels rise and high salinity water pushes north into Delaware Bay, oyster mortality could increase or increased storm events could bring more freshwater counteracting the migration of the salt wedge.


RCI affiliate Leonard Bielory discusses this year’s ragweed season on NJ101.5.com. According to Bielory, the first grain of ragweed pollen was seen later this year  (on August 17th) due to rainfall pushing back the start of the pollen season, but due to above average rainfall, this season will be more severe than in the past because the rain has provided high growth for the ragweed.

Congratulations to RCI affiliate Pamela McElwee who has been selected as a lead author for the upcoming IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems, to be completed by 2019.


Miami, among the most vulnerable US cities to rising sea levels, will be voting to approve a $400 million general obligation bond, instituting higher property taxes to help prepare for future mitigation from encroaching seas. Cities like Miami are more able to turn to property taxes as a base for tackling these issues, unlike many smaller coastal New Jersey towns, where property is quickly eroding away as the sea rises, according to RCI affiliate Bob Kopp. Smaller communities have no choice but to become reliant on higher levels of government if they want to secure the funding needed to pay for the cost of climate adaptation and prevent losses from storm-related flooding, emphasized Kopp.

The Arctic is experiencing rapid warming due to ice-albedo feedbacks as ice begins to melt, which will have significant consequences for the rest of the earth, according to ABC News. RCI affiliate Jennifer Francis explains the connections between reduced winter sea ice and shifts in the jet stream. Although significant debate still exists about this mechanism, more and more research agrees with Francis’s hypothesis that reduced sea ice leads to more frequent jet stream meandering.

As part of the New Jersey Fostering Regional Adaptation through Municipal Economic Scenarios (NJ FRAMES) project, the Two Rivers, one Future campaign will be speaking with residents of the Two Rivers communities about the most import and valued local resources in the area over the next few weeks. The goal of the project is to help the area prepare for coastal flooding through regional resiliency planning. Project partners include the Rutgers Climate Institute, the NJDEP Coastal Management Program, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, and many others.

Rutgers students were among 45 students drawn from 10 universities as part of a ten week paid internship to work with leading businesses work on developing sustainable solutions to issues such as achieving zero waste and improving energy efficiency. RCI affiliate Jill Lipoti served on the selection committee.


RCI co-director Tony Broccoli, associate director Marjorie Kaplan, and affiliate Jeanne Herb, were invited to testify to at a joint legislative session  to map out New Jersey’s plan going forward to tackle the impacts of climate change around the New Jersey. Tony Broccoli informed lawmakers that New Jersey’s average temperature has risen at a rate of just under three degrees Fahrenheit per century, or somewhat faster than the global average, and that sea level rise will raise the baseline for coastal flooding.  New Jersey is also sinking, accelerating sea level rise to a rate faster than the global average. Heat-related emergency room department visits are on the rise, a sign of things to come with climate change, according to research presented by Marjorie Kaplan and Jeanne Herb at this legislative session.


RCI affiliate Alan Robock discussed the expected climate impact of a nuclear conflict arising out of the growing tension between the United States and North Korea. The theory of nuclear winter comes from the idea that the fires that are ignited from nuclear bombs would be large enough to loft black carbon into the stratosphere and block out incoming solar radiation. According to a Robock, a nuclear war that uses less than 1% of the world's nuclear arsenal would produce 'a larger climate change than ever recorded before in human history.' According to Robock, North Korea does not possess the weapons alone to produce a nuclear winter, but once a nuclear war were to start, it would be difficult if not impossible to control it.



More than 60 urban high school students in New Jersey participated in the 9th annual 4-H Summer Science Program at Rutgers New Brunswick. RCI affiliate Janice McDonnell is the co-founder of 4-H STEM, which encourages young people to gain a better understanding of STEM opportunities through hands on activities.

RCI affiliate Robert Kopp, co-author of a recent study in the journal Science, discusses the implications of his research on economic inequality in the United States at KTSA.com. The areas that are the poorest in the US, according to his research, will suffer the impacts of climate change the hardest. Kopp says that economic opportunity will likely shift from the deep south towards the north and west.

RCI affiliate Alan Robock is joining forces with Brian Toon from the University of Colorado Boulder to study the climatic impact of nuclear conflicts with a $3 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project. Discussions of nuclear winter began in 1980, when simple models showed that nuclear explosions could burn enough area to loft significant amounts of soot into the stratosphere. Similar to volcanic eruptions, this would lead to a dramatic decrease in global surface temperatures. The research team aims to use state of the art models to determine how much material would burn in a nuclear strike, how much of this would be lofted into the stratosphere, how the climate would respond, and how this would affect human society.

RCI affiliate Ben Horton was featured in an article in the Atlantic about using sedimentary records in southeast Asia to study past tsunamis. Using layers of bat feces and sand, Ben Horton’s research was able to identify 11 prehistoric tsunamis. Detecting prehistoric tsunamis in this cave includes finding gaps in the layers of bat feces. Due to the topography of the cave and the abundance of bats, the gaps in feces indicates when water rushed in, which could only occur through tsunamis. During a single century around 1300 BC, there were four tsunamis.



Congratulations to RCI affiliate Robert Kopp on receiving the James B. Macelwane Medal, in recognition for “significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding early career scientist.”


Oxford University Press releases Climate Crisis and the Democratic Prospect a new book by RCI Affiliate Emeritus Frank Fischer. Can contemporary democratic governments tackle climate crisis? Some argue that democracy has to be a central part of a strategy to deal with climate change. Others argue that experience shows it not to be up to the challenge in the time frame available-that it will require a stronger hand, even a form of eco-authoritarianism. A question that does not lend itself to an easy assessment, this volume seeks to out and assess the competing answers.