Roller Coaster in Seaside Heights after Sandy

PUBLIC OPINION

A Decade After Sandy, New Jerseyans Believe in Climate Change, See It as a Threat

There is support for various climate-related policies, but not how to pay for it

EAGLETON CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEREST POLLING – As the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaches and more than a year out from Hurricane Ida, the vast majority of New Jerseyans believe the Earth’s climate is changing, see it as a serious threat to the state, and are concerned about the effects of changing climate conditions on various aspects of life, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll.

This latest poll was conducted in partnership with the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center, the New Jersey State Policy Lab, the Rutgers Climate Institute, and the Rutgers Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience Program. Read the full report here.

According to the poll:

• New Jerseyans are more positive than negative about the state’s level of preparedness for extreme weather events: 14 percent say the state will be “very” prepared and 62 percent say “somewhat” prepared for storms like Sandy and Ida in the next 5 to 10 years.

• Two-thirds say extreme flooding is happening more often (65 percent), and half perceive a greater frequency in storms like Sandy and Ida (52 percent) and nonstorm-related coastal flooding because of high tides and winds (50 percent).

• Seventy-eight percent believe the Earth’s climate is changing; almost the same number see changing climate conditions as a serious threat to New Jersey (45 percent “very serious,” 27 percent “somewhat serious”).

• Among registered voters, nearly seven in 10 say the issue of Earth’s changing climate is “very” (41 percent) or “somewhat” (27 percent) important to their vote in the upcoming midterm election.

“The 10th anniversary of Sandy is a reminder for New Jerseyans of how far the state has progressed when it comes to climate resiliency and preparedness and – as they notice an uptick in extreme weather-related events – how much further it has to go,” said Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “New Jerseyans believe climate change is happening and even consider it important to their vote in November, but the paradox of the past decade remains: residents wholeheartedly want to see more climate-related action but do not want to be personally burdened with the responsibility.”

New Jerseyans are supportive of the state enacting various policies related to changing climate conditions and agree the state should commit to reducing carbon emissions to as close to net-zero as possible by the middle of this century.

• Specifically, New Jerseyans support:

o requiring real estate transactions to disclose flood vulnerability to potential buyers (91 percent), reinforcing infrastructure to withstand the effects of climate change (89 percent), investing in natural systems to buffer climate impacts (88 percent), requiring towns and cities to develop local plans for future climate-related events (86 percent), creating regulatory standards for development and redevelopment in flood-prone areas (84 percent);

o strengthening building codes to require resilience for new construction or major renovation (78 percent), requiring homeowners and business owners in risky areas to buy insurance that will pay for future flood damage (68 percent);

o requiring investments using state and federal dollars to take into account resiliency measures to address changing climate conditions (66 percent), using public funds to replenish and widen beaches (63 percent), and requiring buildings be elevated (60 percent).

• Eighty percent say the state government should be required to include specific plans for infrastructure to withstand changing climate conditions and extreme weather events.

• Forty-three percent of residents say the government should try to reduce greenhouse gases voluntarily with incentives, while 26 precent say the government should impose limits on the sources of greenhouse gases.

• Sixty-eight percent say New Jersey should commit to reducing carbon emissions to as close to net-zero as possible by the middle of this century.

• Residents are more supportive of the state helping those in lower- and middle-income areas rebuild or relocate (62 percent), compared with those in upper-income areas (37 percent).

• Twenty-six percent say the state government should prohibit building or rebuilding in flood-prone areas, 22 percent say the state government should encourage people not to build or rebuild with financial incentives, 27 percent say the state should do both, and 21 percent say it should do neither.

• Most residents say the state should legally dedicate funds to support climate preparedness efforts (69 percent) and clean energy programs (64 percent) that cannot be used for other purposes.

“This poll affirms that New Jersey residents understand that climate change affects them now, and they overwhelmingly support state action to keep them out of harm’s way, while at the same time supporting the need to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement to net zero by mid-century,” noted Marjorie Kaplan, co-director of the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center.

“New Jerseyans are increasingly concerned about the impact that changing climate conditions will have on them, personally. Not only are they strongly committed to actions that will prepare their communities for future climate conditions but they are also strongly supportive of actions that will reduce climate emissions substantially,” said Jeanne Herb, co-director of the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center

However, New Jerseyans are hesitant to pay for any of these climate-related actions or policies themselves and would instead like to see the financial burden mostly on the federal government and business corporations, especially those that produce and use fossil fuels.

• In terms of who should pay a “major share” of the added costs to make New Jersey more resilient to climate change, 68 percent say the federal government, 59 percent say companies that generate power using fossil fuels, 58 percent fossil fuel companies and producers, 55 percent say the state government, 23 percent say companies that generate power without using fossil fuels, and 22 percent say their local government.

• Forty-five percent say upper-income residents living in risky areas such as flood zones should pay a “major share.” Only 11 percent say the same about those using gasoline-powered cars, 9 percent about lower- and middle-income residents who live in risky areas like flood zones, and 8 percent about all residents.

• Fifty-four percent of residents prefer to continue funding roads, bridges, and government buildings at the current cost and 39 percent are willing to pay a little more in taxes to make these structures better able to withstand severe weather events.

Because of the impact of changing climate conditions, 76 percent say it is likely they will have to pay more for consumer goods and services, 75 percent that they will have to pay more in utility bills, and 70 percent that they will have to pay more in property taxes. Seventy-five percent think the state will need to increase funding for disaster relief to pay for disasters and extreme weather events.

“New Jerseyans are largely supportive of climate resiliency measures, but, unsurprisingly, they don’t want the funding coming out of their own pockets, especially in a time of rising inflation,” said Jessica Roman, a research associate at ECPIP. “Aside from the federal government, residents think more of the financial onus should be on larger, more obvious emissions producers like companies using and producing fossil fuels, rather than individual people. And they are dissatisfied with the work these entities are doing thus far in response to changing climate conditions.”

When it comes to who is obligated to address climate change and how various entities are doing, New Jerseyans assign the most responsibility to, and are the most dissatisfied with, business operations and industry, the United States government, and fossil fuel companies.

• A majority assigns “a lot” or “some” responsibility to business corporations and industry (81 percent), the federal government (80 percent), fossil fuel companies (77 percent), developed and industrialized nations outside the U.S. (74 percent), New Jersey’s own state government (74 percent), car manufacturers (73 percent), the media (72 percent), individual people (72 percent), and developing countries (70 percent).

• When it comes to the job various entities are doing on climate change, most are dissatisfied with the media (72 percent), followed by the federal government (69 percent), fossil fuel companies (67 percent), business corporations and industry (65 percent), developed and industrialized nations outside of the U.S. (64 percent), individual people (58 percent), developing countries (53 percent), New Jersey’s state government (51 percent), car manufacturers (48 percent) and local government (45 percent).

The results are from a statewide poll of 1,002 adults contacted by live interviewers on landlines and cell phones from Oct. 14 to Oct. 22. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.

Meet the Climate Corps

Angel Alguera, Rutgers Climate CorpsAngel Alguera
I am a first-year Atmospheric Science master’s degree student in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and my work focuses on meteorology and applications of climate change resiliency. My professional interests include severe weather forecasting and community preparedness regarding weather-related disasters. I work with Dr. James Shope at the NJ Climate Change Resource Center to produce applied research and reports relevant to New Jersey stakeholders. I currently assist with climate change data analysis, large dataset management, and report writing.

Benjamin GoldbergBenjamin Goldberg
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in climate adaptation and resiliency planning, with experience in sustainable food systems. I joined the Climate Corps last summer to help develop a GIS-based food waste recovery tool, and currently support community resilience through flood vulnerability analysis. I hold a B.A. from Middlebury College and a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz.

Surya Jacob, Rutgers Climate CorpsSurya Jacob
I am a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School concentrating in community development, focused on housing, land and finance, as well as pursuing the Real Estate Development/Redevelopment Certification. Prior to Bloustein, I worked as an architect and interior designer in India and Canada and am pivoting towards a career in urban planning to engage in extensive projects at the macro level. My interests include affordable and mixed income housing, urban redevelopment, and housing finance, and I am deeply passionate about climate resilience in community planning. Being part of Climate Corps is a foundational step towards helping to solve equity issues in vulnerable communities along the coastal region.

Vineesh Das Kodakkandathil, RutgersVineesh Das Kodakkandathil
I am an urban planner with five years of professional experience in community-led ecotourism development and land use and environment management planning in ecologically sensitive areas. I have worked on and conducted extensive environmental sensitivity analyses, flood and landslide vulnerability assessments, and human impact assessments with the help of GIS tools. I’m currently pursuing my master’s in City and Regional Planning at Bloustein School with a concentration in Transport Planning and GIS.

Douglas LeungDouglas Leung
I am working with the Climate Change Resource Center to identify vulnerable communities and places affected by climate-induced flooding in coastal New Jersey municipalities. I am a Master of City and Regional Planning candidate at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. As a planner, I want to develop strategies and solve problems affecting our cities and communities that enable more equitable outcomes in housing and transportation. I am also a recent Army veteran, having served as a company commander of recruiting in the northern suburbs of Chicago and as a reconnaissance platoon leader in the 10th Mountain Division. For fun, I enjoy weightlifting, running, reading fiction, and board games.

Nihar MhatreNihar Mhatre
I am a master’s candidate in city and regional planning at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, focusing on urban design and land use planning. Before being accepted at Rutgers, I worked as an architect at JD Studio and had my own architectural practice, Vastu Insights. My research interests revolve around designing and developing climate change adaptation and resilience strategies to promote equity in urban landscapes. Having the opportunity to work on real-world projects through Climate Corps will be an essential step in the development of my understanding of addressing climate change issues in vulnerable regions.

Josephine O'GradyJosephine O’Grady
I am a first-year student in the Master of Public Policy program. Through the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) certification, I am focusing a significant portion of my graduate coursework on topics including coastal geomorphology, environmental justice, and hazard mitigation planning. Before beginning my studies at the Bloustein School, I received my bachelor’s degree in public health from Kean University, where I first became interested in how coastal dynamics shape lived experiences. I previously served as an intern at the New Jersey State Policy Lab and currently work for the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

Jessica Parineet Jessica Parineet
I am a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the Bloustein School with a strong interest in climate change policy and related topics. In my previous work, I gained experience in a number of dimensions of climate change issues through carbon capture storage research, urban heat island research, and community level engagement as I am currently on the Student Advisory Board for the Rutgers Office of Climate Action. I am excited to expand on my interests in environmental justice and local level resilience planning through my involvement in the Climate Corps.

Dillon Patel Dillan Patel
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Environmental Planning and International Development. I have previously worked as an economist performing cost-benefit analysis and conducting monitoring and evaluation for renewable energy in developing countries. I have also spent a summer in western Massachusetts mapping stormwater infrastructure and working with planners to identify suitable places for green stormwater infrastructure.

Moira Sweeder, Rutgers Climate CorpsMoira Sweeder
I am a graduate student enrolled in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School. My concentration is environmental planning with a focus on coastal resilience. Before pursuing my master’s degree at Rutgers, I studied sustainability at Stockton University. During this time, I interned for the PSEG Institute of Sustainability Studies, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuary Research Reserve, and NJ Audubon. I am thrilled to now be a part of the Climate Corps, researching coastal resilience as a part of the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.