The first two articles of this Series, see here and here, discussed ideas and gave recommendations about opportunities to address climate change about which we’re not hearing enough of in New Jersey. We continue to provide more of these in Part 3.
Two historians of science, Oreskes and Conway, responding recently to the latest IPCC report, and invoking the “transformation” concept, both discussed in Part 2, tell us that “Major transformations can happen in a generation. But not without government help.” So, we’re going to have to talk about State Government yet again, because it is that important.
They also rebut the conventional wisdom that the technological advancements many are counting on to address climate change are going to come solely from the private sector.
Over the past several decades, scientists have warned us that we need to curtail further greenhouse gas emissions if we wish to keep global warming below 2°C, which many consider a major danger limit for the Earth’s climate. The latest IPCC Special Report suggests that our economy must undergo a series of rapid transformations if we are to have a chance of staying at or below 1.5°C, and going over that could have disastrous consequences for many millions of people. The global emissions trajectory we are on is clearly incapable of even slowing the rate of temperature growth and sea-level rise, and must be reduced dramatically if we are achieve even a modest extension of the time we have before the Earth hits another milestone and potential tipping point.
Both U.S. and NJ emissions have been declining since the early 2000s, and NJ actually hit its 2020 goal of bringing emissions down to 1990 levels by 2008. But reaching the next set of objectives, an 80% reduction by 2050, will be significantly harder. According to a 2017 Rutgers report, “meeting the state’s limit of an 80 percent reduction from the 2006 level by 2050 will require a 75 percent reduction from 2012 emissions.” The UN estimates that global emissions overall must be trending firmly downward by 2020 (just over a year away) if we are to have any hope of staying “well under the 2°C limit,” which is the language of the Paris Accord.
New Jersey’s new “economic development master plan” is embedded in a report issued by the NJ Economic Development Authority titled “The State of Innovation: Building a Stronger and Fairer New Jersey.” First accounts of the report, such as this one from NJBIZ, mentioned a focus on wage growth, on community college education, on innovation, and on streamlining regulations for small business, but did not specifically mention that clean energy is a major part of the “innovation” focus.
Murphy unveils NJ economic development ‘master plan’
Gov. Phil Murphy announces his major economic agenda on Oct. 1, 2018 at ON3 biotechnology campus in Nutley. – (EDWIN J. TORRES/NJ GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)
Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday unveiled his “master plan” aimed at reimagining how the state attracts and keeps jobs and businesses and kick starting New Jersey’s economy, which he said lagged for the past decade under the administration of Chris Christie.
Murphy, at the ON3 biotechnology campus in Passaic County, said his goal is that by 2025 New Jersey will have added 300,000 new jobs, achieved a 4 percent wage growth or an increase of $1,500 in median wages, 40,000 more women and minorities working in STEM fields, $645 million in new venture capital investment, and the employment of 42,000 more women and minorities.
More broadly, Murphy’s economic outline has four parts – investment in people, investment in communities, a build-up of the innovation economy and making government work better for small businesses by streamlining much of the permitting and application processes and bureaucracies online.
Which led us initially to wonder “where’s the green in Murphy’s new economic master plan?” Fortunately the answer is pretty clear—it’s a key part of the Innovation Economy, and already getting some new attention at the agency.
You may have caught the release of the latest IPPC report two weeks ago. That report, Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (IPPC 2018), found that the intense damage of droughts, floods, and everything that goes with that, anticipated to occur at 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, will occur at this lower concentration, and earlier, by 2040.
It mentions the term “transformation,” saying “avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has ‘no documented historic precedent” “within just a few years (Davenport 2018).” We’ll mention that term a little later. But a major implication is that we’re going to have to extend our reach, the required speed of getting there, and fundamentally question business-as-usual assumptions which, consciously or not, justify seeking the much smaller, incremental levels of change we usually pursue and, to those of us on this issue, had seemed acceptable.
However, the report says levels of greenhouse gas emissions would have to drop to zero by 2050 (which sounds like a close cousin to New Jersey’s 100% renewable energy goal).
By Matt Polsky, Lawrence Furman, Jonathan Cloud, Caitlyn Montgomery
New Jersey is finally taking climate change seriously. The Murphy Administration has several policy initiatives on or directly related to it, including some with atypically ambitious goals. An increasing number of well-attended forums are being held in the State, with speakers from some environmental groups, and a couple of keynotes from the First Lady, Tammy Murphy. Rutgers University has gone from having a relatively minimal presence to becoming a major player in both climate science and now policy, through the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance. NJ Spotlight is running stories. The directly related area of clean energy is getting a lot of attention, including through the Energy Master Plan process and legislation.
Still, what isn’t being noticed at several forums is that we’re still missing a lot of possibilities and opportunities to do more to address climate change.
Two of the authors have attended many climate change conferences over the years, including more recent ones, such as at Rutgers University, Ramapo College, the League of Conservation Voters, Centenary University, Montclair State University, and many others. While important information is always presented, both the analyses, recommendations, and even perspectives are invariably incomplete. Panelists are often “names” or the heads of traditional groups, which is important, but they, too, do not offer the complete picture. Forums at Rutgers typically have minimal if any opportunity for real audience participation. Those oriented to students offer a limited scope of explicit messages. They emphasize advocacy and activism on voter registration, such issues as protesting proposed pipelines, supporting certain bills in the Legislature, certain actions their universities could take like divesting from fossils fuels. They identify “bad guy” companies.
Certainly these are important, but they do not mention the companies that have stepped up to support staying in the Paris Agreement, which hints at larger possibilities. They do not usually offer a lot of creative ideas, which students of all people really need to hear. They do not say or imply that it will be anything but easy to tackle climate change, or that the usually narrow paths provided will be far from sufficient. Indeed, addressing climate change will likely be the challenge of their generation!
These conferences also reveal mindset traps that make implementing or even conceiving of very large scale changes more difficult, like we can either do mitigation or resiliency. This particularly misleading either/or has gotten better, as now we hear more of “both.” But another is that there is no purpose or recognition of the need to talk to conservatives or Trump voters about addressing climate change. They’re not part of the picture; or worse, are seen as unchangeable “deniers.” Even though we’re saying we need huge carbon emission reductions, somehow we’ll work around the need for behavioral changes from them to reduce their carbon emissions.
Reprinted with permission from Hackensack Tidelines (Summer 2018)
Marshlands Can Be Protected and Generate Revenue
Riding the train across the Meadowlands I can see the extensive marshlands, fields of tall grasses and water in the midst of the highly developed metropolitan area surrounding the lower Hackensack River. It is truly a great sight to see these marshes, which were once landfills, reclaimed and revitalized, thanks in large part to the Clean Water Act of 1972.
However, we are not in the clear when it comes to wetlands preservation and cannot be complacent. The Meadowlands’ proximity to New York City continues to exert great pressure from the business develop these open lands. For example, not long ago a single acre of undeveloped marshland in the Meadowlands had a market value of $250,000. Many projects looking to make the Meadowlands a revenue source, such as farming, diking, dumping and development, have failed.
New Jersey, like the rest of the world, is in a period of profound transition. As we come grips with the fact that humanity’s impact on the planet is creating serious risks for all of us, and that each of us must do what we can, where we are, to make a difference—we simultaneously realize that our individual actions are insufficient, and that we need, at all levels, transformational change. We need to foster an awareness within both local and global communities that change is both essential and inevitable. Whether we’re concerned with climate change, or biodiversity loss, or social injustice, it’s clear that above all we need to restructure our economy, to make it cleaner, and fairer, and more restorative of Earth’s systems in order to achieve any degree of sustainable prosperity.
For many people, the sheer size and scope of this challenge may seem beyond their ability to comprehend, so they withdraw into narrower realms of life — making a living, maintaining a relationship, or pursuing “professional development.” Those who do recognize what the planet confronts us with may become cynical and resigned, get burned out, or simply feel overwhelmed and unable to take any meaningful action. The challenge, in this game, is to engage with other social change agents in a common search for the levers of regenerative transformation.
A More Comprehensive Look at a Green Economy Strategy for New Jersey
Launching this web site is an opportunity to feature the ideas of a new environmental generation — and a platform for shaping the public discourse in New Jersey. The election of Phil Murphy marks a return to a progressive, green, and socially-affirming agenda, and it’s important to support this direction against the general drift of New Jersey politics. The recent (June 2018) budget battle is an example of the frustrations and compromises that seem likely to place limits on what Murphy can accomplish, but neither he nor we can afford to be discouraged by it. His reach may exceed his grasp, but it’s worth reaching for.
Creating a genuinely green economy is, arguably, a win-win proposition.1 It creates jobs — jobs that are meaningful, satisfying, and worthwhile.2 It makes us more resilient, and more sustainable, and a better example for the rest of the country. It demonstrates that green is profitable, inclusive, and uplifting. It creates a world that works better for everyone, not just for a select few — but it works for them also. (How is it not in the interests of “the elite” to have a society that is prosperous, and generous, and fair? Many if not most of the wealthy recognize that much of their wealth comes from the rising productivity, prosperity, and well-being of everyone else.) When things get better for everyone, they get better for everyone.
This is what the Murphys, both Phil and Tammy, are all about. But it’s up to the rest of us to make sure they stay on track, and are not derailed by circumstances, naysaying, or the daunting challenges they face in pushing NJ into the fast lane toward a sustainable future.3 This web site offers a more comprehensive look at a green economic strategy for New Jersey, and provides some practical opportunities for civic action, green entrepreneurship, and grassroots engagement.
MATT POLSKY / NJ ENVIRONMENT NEWS – I recently collaborated with students in my Sustainable Economics course at Ramapo College to write a proposal to Governor Murphy for a green economy in New Jersey. “Green economy” and “green jobs” are not new terms, but our proposal takes them in new directions. Typically, green jobs refer to solar and wind installers, recycling and efficiency jobs. But, perhaps surprisingly, conventional green jobs may not be the largest category of jobs in a fuller green economy.
Our proposal offers a vision of what a green economy could ultimately be. The principal purpose of a green economy would be as a creative way to address serious environmental and, increasingly, social problems. It may be the most viable response if environmental and social conflicts, and resource shortages, worsen in the future. Alternatively, New Jersey could decide to lead the U.S. and join much of the rest of the world in pursuing the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. If so, we would need new ways to actually do so.
New Jersey’s green energy economy had fallen into a multi-year stagnant state under Governor Christie. That said, Governor Murphy has once again made clean energy a priority for the state and has returned it to membership in the exclusive “50×30” club. Other members include California, New York, Vermont and Hawaii.
That membership means that the state is committed to running on 50% renewable energy sources by 2030. Interestingly, both Iowa and Colorado are likely to reach that same clean power goal, though through voluntarily utility leadership as opposed to membership in the 50×30 club.
By signing the new solar bill, Murphy has put NJ back into the lead, with a commitment to a 100% renewable energy economy by 2050, and a series of other initiatives. The story, by Julie Campbell, concludes:
New Jersey’s green energy economy is composed of several large strategies and projects to ensure its goal achievement. This includes its new utility reforms – to prevent electricity price spikes – and energy efficiency targets, as well as the most recent clean energy bill signed by the governor. Together, those components will quadruple the state’s goal for renewable energy. It will also provide consumer protection, decrease pollution, and create thousands of new jobs in the state.
While we view the Green Economy through a much broader lens, it’s good to have someone — anyone — tell us we’re back on top.