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Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 38


Additional  Protected Natural Resources Indicators

39 - Drinking Water Quality

40 - Solid Waste Production

41 - Air Pollution

Greenhouse Gas Releases

Millions of tons of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere annually (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent weight): Recently increasing

  Things to think about 

New Jersey represents approximately 0.1 percent of the world’s population, yet generates approximately 0.5 percent of the world’s GHG emissions.

The longer we wait to act to address global warming, the more difficult and costly it will be. Prevention, as always, is the least expensive solution.

There are a number of near term and very cost effective options for minimizing and controlling GHG emissions. Examples include cars that get more miles per gallon and compact fluorescent light bulbs that save electricity, which are available now to help us save energy.

The majority of land in our state is not very high above sea level. Most of South Jersey is low-lying coastal plain.

Since we can now purchase our electricity in the same way we purchase phone service, one of the most important things we can do as individuals is buy "green" power - that is, the electricity generated from renewable sources and sources with the lowest environmental impacts.

Importance

Global warming is considered by many to be one of the most significant environmental threats to the future of modern civilization. Most of it is caused when gases released by human activities, particularly burning oil, coal, and gas, accumulate in the atmosphere and trap the sun’s heat - much the way the glass of a greenhouse traps heat. Most climate scientists believe that as a result of this warming of the earth, sea levels are going to rise; weather patterns will shift; hurricanes, tropical pests, and diseases will travel farther north; and differing rainfalls will alter crop patterns. We in New Jersey are participants in changing the climate of our state and of our world.

Economic

Unchecked climate change could impose serious burdens on our economy. A rise in sea level that inundates the shore could cause billions of dollars in property damage. Changing rainfall patterns could cause major crop losses and affect future drinking water supplies. New Jersey could become more vulnerable to hurricanes, floods, new pests, and diseases migrating north from tropical places. Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions before the full effects are felt presents economic challenges and opportunities.

Environmental

If some predictions are correct, global warming could trigger a wave of massive environmental transformations, causing whole ecosystems to radically change in an attempt to adapt to new conditions. This will lead to invasions of exotic species that will displace native wildlife and become carriers of new diseases. Species extinction may result and entire habitats could disappear forever. The full consequences of such upheaval are unknown.

Social

It is only through cooperation, from the local to the international level, that we can address this problem. The United States is the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. Other countries have begun to express significant anger toward our country because our emissions cause problems with which they will have to deal.

Knowledge Gaps

A large majority of scientists believe that global warming and climate change is happening. However, we do not know how serious the effects may be or what reductions in greenhouse emissions are necessary to prevent global warming. These data are only estimates and will vary from actual emissions.

Data Source: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: May 1, 2007

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