In the Barnegat Bay region, the related assets at risk due to climate change, at minimum, total 18,876 acres in property worth $86.8 billion if sea levels rise only to the lowest level predicted by the end of the century, according to a Rutgers study prepared for the Barnegat Bay Partnership. The lowest sea-level rise predicted was 29 centimeters. The highest was 126 centimeters, and while that would result in 28,127 acres at risk, the value of the property would only climb to $89.7 billion.
The study, which was primarily completed before superstorm Sandy but was then amended and wrapped up in March, noted that climate change is already evident in the region with temperature and precipitation records over the past fifty years showing a gradual warming. Modeled projections anticipate continued warming and the acceleration of seal-level rise, as well as more frequent floods and storms and other extreme weather conditions.
The study cited a number of assets and activities at risk as a result, including beaches, fresh water, marshes, wetlands, forest, and marine life, as well as built assets, the tourism industry, and fishing and agriculture. The most vulnerable groups are expected to be small business owners, commercial and recreational fisherman, and lower-income and fixed-income homeowners.
The study recommends a number of adaptions, including land-use planning, diversification of the region’s economy, and protection of the ecosystem. Many of these approaches, the study notes, require policy reform.