Fish market

RESEARCH

Climate Change Takes from the Poor, Gives to the Rich, Study Finds

As fish and other natural resources move in response to climate change, wealth moves with them

Malin Pinsky at Rutgers COOL labKEN BRANSON/RUTGERS TODAY–Fish and other important resources are moving toward the Earth’s poles as the climate warms, and wealth is moving with them, according to a new paper by scientists at Rutgers, Princeton, Yale, and Arizona State universities.

“What we find is that natural resources like fish are being pushed around by climate change, and that changes who gets access to them,” said Malin Pinsky, professor of ecology & evolution in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

The stronger and more conservation-oriented the natural resource management in a community, the higher the value that community places on its natural resources, whether those resources are increasing or diminishing, Pinsky reports. If wealthier communities and countries are more likely to have strong resource management, then these wealthy groups are more likely to benefit, thus exacerbating inequality.

Pinsky and his co-authors have published their findings in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Pinsky his co-authors report that “inclusive wealth” – not just fish, but plants and trees and other species important to human beings – is shifting out of the temperate zones and toward the poles as global temperatures rise. Inclusive wealth is the sum of a community’s capital assets, including natural assets like fish or trees, but also human health and education, as well as built assets like roads, buildings and factories. Because climate changes unevenly from place to place, natural assets migrate – or reproduce – unevenly.

Their paper uses data Pinsky developed in his studies of fish migration and a mathematical formula developed by Yale University economist Eli Fenichel to illustrate the relationship between the movement of resources and the movement of wealth.

To illustrate their point, the authors set up a model with two fictitious communities, Northport and Southport, each dependent to some degree on a particular fishery. The authors then imagined scenarios of interaction between the two communities, their fish stocks, and each other.
The Nature Climate Change paper is the first of several projects for this research team, which includes Bonnie McCay, professor emerita of human ecology at Rutgers; Kevin St. Martin, associate professor of geography in Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences; Princeton biologist Simon Levin; and Joshua Abbott, associate professor of sustainability at Arizona State University. The projects are part of a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

“We tend to think of climate change as just a problem of physics and biology,” Pinsky says. “But people react to climate change as well, and at the moment we don’t have a good understanding for the impacts of human behavior on natural resources affected by climate change.”

One of the next projects for the team will tilt to the human side of the equation. St. Martin and will spend part of the coming spring and summer on the road, talking to people involved in commercial fishing for summer flounder and hake in communities from Cape May, New Jersey, to Portland, Maine.

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.