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Global Warming and New Jersey Development

November 18th, 2005 by

  •  Global warming could have a particularly devastating impact on New Jersey and the Jersey Shore, according to a Princeton University study released this week.
  •  Rising seas could not only shift today’s shoreline inland by 240 to 480 feet by the year 2100, it could bring 100-year floods every five to 30 years, and contaminate drinking water supplies especially for communities along the Delaware River, according to the study.
  • Unique New Jersey ecosystems, such as those that support the world’s largest population of horseshoe crabs or as a crucial rest stop for millions of migrating birds, are especially vulnerable, the study finds.
  • The authors urge policymakers to mitigate the human and environmental risks with new zoning restrictions and development planning that would move new construction away from low-lying areas, and by decreasing the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming.

(Source: “Future Sea Level Rise and the New Jersey Coast: Assessing Potential Impacts and Opportunities” by Princeton University’s Policy Research Institute for the Region and Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy.)


In recent decades, New Jersey has defended its coasts and coastal properties from natural erosion by replenishing beaches and erecting barriers to flooding.

These costly responses will not only be inadequate against the results of global warming, a Princeton study warns, but they increase the vulnerability of many communities to storm damage and flooding by allowing development to happen where people and buildings are most at risk. They also harm the environment by interfering with the natural inland migration of natural resources, the authors say.

The study advises the best way to mitigate this risk is to let New Jersey’s shoreline naturally migrate inland, by selectively withdrawing new development away from the coastline to higher elevations inland, and by new limitations on development in at-risk areas. Such limitations might include “rolling easements,” whereby buffers of a set size between private property and the coastline are written into land deeds.

Other strategies advocated by the report include establishing funding specifically dedicated to coastal land preservation, and pursuing strategies at the state, national and global level to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that increase the rate of global warming.

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