(This spring, The Press asked community leaders for updates on their efforts as they fight for change.)
Although a great deal of effort and money is being devoted to solving the terrible effects brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, there still remains the largely unfinished business of how to handle the equally complicated and devastating crisis of global warming/climate change.
Unlike the pandemic, however, much more is known at this point about the threat climate change poses to our economy, environment and public health.
There are also more opportunities for people to become actively engaged in working toward solutions to these disastrous ongoing problems.
As one of the most at-risk states, New Jersey has joined forces with New York and California to become one of the key states in the country to join the U.S. Climate Alliance.
Those states have agreed to adhere to the targets set by the U.N.’s Paris Agreement in an effort to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy.
As part of this commitment, we rejoined the cap-and-trade Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and our state is slated to receive at least $80 million this year toward climate-related projects.
In another recent advancement, Danish wind company Orsted received approval in March to purchase capacity interconnection rights for its offshore wind project off the coast of Atlantic City. Orsted’s Ocean Wind project is expected to generate $1.17 billion in economic benefits and create an estimated 15,000 jobs over the project’s lifetime.
The Atlantic County chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, with a network of 297 local supporters, is one such group that is working to build support for the Energy Innovation Act, a national market-based policy solution aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
Furthermore, The Press of Atlantic City has reported on several occasions about a small group of private citizens, including myself, who are working to promote the City of Atlantic City as an ideal location for convening large plenary sessions as well as wide-ranging technical meetings on many different subjects associated with climate change.
The reasoning behind this initiative is that our renowned resort city on the Atlantic seaboard, with its bevy of fine hotels, dining and excellent meeting places, is well suited, and in a very cost-effective position, to use its splendid facilities to readily become a global focal point for national and international groups to meet for fact-finding and strategizing.
The state Senate has also unanimously supported this initiative along with the convention bureau of Atlantic City (Meet AC) plus various city and county political bodies.
When we started our campaign to brand Atlantic City as a center for climate change discussions, we did not anticipate that all restaurants and hotels throughout the city would be closing indefinitely just as we started to gain traction.
Despite this obstacle, we remain steadfast in our quest to address the changing climate, and we are galvanized by the outpouring of support from our community and local stakeholders.
According to a recent survey conducted by Yale and George Mason universities, a majority of Americans are concerned about climate change, despite the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis. Mandatory stay-at-home orders have forced us to seek alternative, more traditional ways to spend our time.
Farmers markets, plant nurseries and bicycle shops all across South Jersey have seen an increase in business as people step outdoors. Social distancing has turned business meetings and happy hours alike into video conferences, and even those vehemently opposed to technology are coming around.
One can only wonder how many of these new practices will become the norm. It is therefore our desire to regularly report on what local citizens are doing and the various initiatives they are taking part in to reduce the short and long-term dangers of climate change.
As we begin to rebuild our economy post-coronavirus, the future of South Jersey remains uncharted. When and how will casinos reopen? Will visitors feel safe to return to our beloved shore towns? What happens if there is a second wave of cases? How can we proactively prepare for future viruses and other public health threats, such as climate change?
One thing is certain: We need not sacrifice our economy for the sake of the environment; both can thrive simultaneously with careful planning. If the coronavirus has taught us anything, a key takeaway should be the important role that science plays in developing solutions. The pandemic has caused many to rethink how we live our lives and where our values really lie.
(David Dichter, of Linwood, is a retired geologist and Marine Corps veteran.)
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