2019-2020 Academic Year

News and Highlights in July 2020

The newest tool to call attention to climate change may be comedy, writes RCI Affiliate Lauren Feldman in her book A Comedian and an Activist Walk into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice.

                           laurenfeldman bookcover                                     lauren

A new study co-authored by RCI Affiliate Alan Robock examines the biological effects of starting and abruptly ending geoengineering efforts to cool Earth’s climate through spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. The study shows that geoengineering's benefits are limited for apple crops in India. Abruptly ending climate intervention might also lead to crop failure. The spray, a possible response to global warming, would create a sulfuric acid cloud to block some solar radiation and cool the earth. “This study reminds us that there is no perfect technical method to address the impacts of global warming, and that we need to mitigate global warming and adapt as best we can,” said Robock.

Closeup image of two apples

The Rutgers President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience released an interim report this week, reports Rutgers Today. The interim report provides an analysis of the University’s greenhouse gas emissions and lays out a plan of action for the Task Force leading to the delivery of a final Climate Action Plan to President Holloway in 2021. “As the State University of New Jersey, we have a critical role to play in helping the state navigate its way over the coming decades into a climate-positive future,” said task force co-chairs RCI Affiliate Robert Kopp and Kevin Lyons when presenting the report to Holloway. “Embracing that role wholeheartedly will allow us to serve as a global model for public and public-spirited universities in densely populated regions.”

COVID-19, racial injustice and climate change require a bold approach instead of incrementalism, RCI Associate Director Marjorie Kaplan and RCI Affiliate Jeanne Herb report in an NJ Spotlight op-ed. The piece highlights the intersecting crises of COVID-19, structural racism, and climate change discussed in the two-part workshop Rebuilding New Jersey after COVID-19: Advancing a Healthy, Resilient, Sustainable and Fair Garden State. Kaplan and Herb report panelists’ call for abandoning historic incrementalism and urging New Jersey to advance big ideas, pointing to the November elections as a mechanism to demonstrate support for lasting solutions.

President Trump weakened the National Environmental Policy Act by limiting public review of federal infrastructure projects, reports NY Times. The rule will allow agencies to develop categories of activities that do not require an environmental assessment at all, free federal agencies from having to consider the impacts of infrastructure projects on climate change, and speed up the permitting of freeways, power plants and pipelines.

Front view image of the White House

A new Rutgers-led study compares 40 plans of action to mitigate climate change, food security and land degradation and examines benefits and trade-offs. "We argue that if we want to have an impact on multiple problems, we need to be smart about what options get us multiple benefits and which options come with potential trade-offs," lead author and RCI Affiliate Pamela McElwee told Rutgers Today. The study highlights lesser known options for tackling climate change, such as integrated water management, reducing post-harvest losses in agriculture, improving fire management, agroforestry and investing in disaster risk management.

Snapshot of green field

New research co-authored by RCI Affiliates James R. Miller and Benjamin Lintner examines the record warming of the South Pole. The study underscores the linkage of interior Antarctic climate to tropical variability. The recent warming is localized in the South Pole region and is significantly higher than the average warming across Antarctica during the 30-year period, according to the study. The extreme South Pole warming is within the range of natural variability, based on climate modeling simulations, but warming caused by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions likely intensified it.

 Snapshot of Southpole

Arctic wildfires release record-breaking pollution, reports NY Times. The Arctic is seeing exceptionally high temperatures and experiencing dry soils, conditions that contribute to these fires. In June, fires released more carbon dioxide than all the carbon emissions produced by Norway in a year. This data is consistent with a pattern of warming of the region, which may be influencing extreme weather events around the world.

 The state Department of Environmental Protection has released the 2020 Scientific Report on Climate Change, reports NJ Spotlight and NJ.com. The report details the effect of climate change on New Jersey, including predictions of higher temperatures, rising seas, bigger storms and disruptions to human health and wildlife. The report will be followed in September by a strategy on how the state will respond.

More New Jersey homes may be at risk for flooding than federal numbers suggest. First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research group, used Rutgers-led development of sea-level rise projections to identify 14.6 million properties at risk compared to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s identification of 8.7 million properties at risk. The new calculation takes into account sea-level rise, rainfall and flooding along smaller creeks not mapped federally.

The Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership (RUCOOL) and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind install a new lidar wind data collection system, reports Renews.biz. The instrument will collect data to accurately calculate energy production from wind projects, also contributing to Rutgers’ research on sea breezes and coastal storms.

The Northeast Climate Adaptation Fellowship Program has opened applications for commercial farmers who grow vegetables and/or small fruit, and agricultural advisors who work with vegetable/ small fruit farms. RCI Associate Director, Marjorie Kaplan is a member of the leadership team for the Climate Adaptation Fellowship and helped develop its curriculum along with RCI affiliates Janice McDonnell and Richard Lathrop. Dan Ward, of Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center is a member of the Vegetable and Small Fruit Team. Farmers and agricultural advisors from the following states are eligible to apply: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C. Participants in the Climate Adaptation Fellows program will enhance their knowledge of climate change and greenhouse gas mitigation, experiment with or evaluate adaptation management practices, and encourage other farmers to explore farm-specific climate change adaptation measures through this peer-to-peer curriculum. Applications due October 1, 2020.