On the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey's governor committed the state to a far-reaching plan to deal with climate change and protect itself from future storms.
Democrat Phil Murphy signed an executive order Tuesday in Hoboken, a city just outside New York that was inundated with flooding during Sandy. The order establishes a statewide climate change resiliency strategy involving 16 state agencies.
Led by an official in the Department of Environmental Protection, the group will write a report on how best to deal with rising sea levels, warming seas and stronger and more frequent storms. It is to be delivered to the governor by Sept. 1, 2020.
"New Jersey is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise and global warming, and today's executive order outlines a bold and comprehensive set of actions to ensure that our communities and infrastructure are more resilient against future storms," Murphy said in a statement.
"As a coastal state, New Jersey is on the front lines of climate change," added DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe. "The impacts of climate change are far-ranging and already touch on everyone's life in one way or another."
David Rosenblatt, the DEP's assistant commissioner, will serve as New Jersey's chief resilience officer, leading the effort and working with other state agencies.
The report will address topics including providing guidance and strategies for state agencies, municipalities, and regional planning agencies; promoting long-term water and energy resource security; reducing the risk of wildfires in state forests; reducing health risks from climate change such as increased vulnerability to extreme temperatures; and supporting sustainable development and identifying funding sources.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, called the move "long overdue."
"It is a good step forward when it comes to being prepared and stronger than the next storm," he said. "However, we still have a long way to go to completing the resiliency plan."
Tittel said the state continues to allow dense development in flood-prone sections of the state, which places people and property directly in harm's way even as sea levels rise.