At the Jersey Shore, rising sea levels mean higher, devastating storm surges from hurricanes and nor’easters, and “sunny day flooding,” which is when ocean tides are so high they cover roads, seep into homes, and turn neighborhoods into tide pools.
When I was little, the sand was steps away from my grandparents’ doorstep. Now, that sandy marsh has turned into a year-round swamp filled with invasive reeds. Some of our neighbors’ homes were damaged beyond repair by Hurricanes Sandy and Irene. Everyone is worried that their home will be next.
Chronic flooding isn’t just a nuisance and a threat to family traditions, it’s an economic problem. The homes in harm’s way currently contribute almost $390 million in local property taxes. They are at risk of losing value and saddling their owners with underwater mortgages, figuratively and literally. Furthermore, around 2,600 commercial properties will be at risk of chronic flooding by 2045. Nearly all of these properties are retail establishments — hotels, restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, and pharmacies — businesses unlikely to survive flooding every two weeks.
The RGGI emissions cap is something many New Jerseyans have never heard of, but it’s a critical administrative decision that will determine much of the state’s environmental and energy policy for the next several years. Experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council calculate the optimal emissions cap for New Jersey at 12 to 13 million tons in 2020. A strong cap like this would set up the state for a clean energy future, while a weak cap would do nothing to reduce pollution. RGGI has successfully reduced carbon emissions and pollution, and contributed to each participating state’s economy in the process. Without a strong emissions cap, New Jersey won’t reap any of the benefits that RGGI can provide.