Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rebuilding standards at Jersey Shore must reflect climate change, experts say

North A day after Governor Christie dismissed questions about whether climate change fueled superstorm Sandy, scientists maintained Wednesday that global warming and sea level rise must be taken into account when rebuilding the Jersey Shore.

Meteorologists and climate experts criticized Christie for remarks at a news conference on Tuesday in which he said he was not focused on the cause of the devastating storm and that questions about the role of climate change were “esoteric.” The scientists said that understanding how climate change helped exacerbate Sandy’s destructive force is crucial to limiting damage from future storms.

“He shouldn’t be dismissing this,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate expert at Princeton University. “This should be at the heart of local, state and federal policy right now in deciding how to rebuild the Jersey Shore. If we rebuild the same way it was, are we just asking for more trouble? How can we rebuild and retreat in a way that makes us less vulnerable?”

...While Christie was dismissive on Tuesday, he has said in the past that climate change is real and that “human activity” has contributed to it. And while he has maintained that the science behind climate change is in flux, Christie adopted new federal rebuilding standards last month that will require damaged properties to be elevated or retrofitted to withstand storm surges or face steep flood insurance premiums.

Some scientists question if it is wise to rebuild in some of the most vulnerable areas at all. “I think a lot of this building is inappropriate on the Jersey barrier islands,” said James Carton, an expert on sea level rise at the University of Maryland. “You’re almost guaranteed that the buildings will be destroyed at some point.”...

A Sandy-damaged building in Sea Bright, New Jersey, shot by Adam Moss, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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