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Rutgers Annual “State Of The Climate” Report Ducks Critical Issues

No Data Or Analysis Of NJ Greenhouse Gas Emissions Or Policies To Reduce Them

New Focus On Wildfires Parrots Murphy DEP And Even Cites A DEP Press Release

Rutgers Scientists Are Hiding Behind The “Science”

Source: Rutgers Report (2023)

Source: Cover photo for Rutgers Annual “State Of The Climate” Report (2023)

This Thursday July 10 at 11 am (EST), Rutgers will host a webinar on their annual “State Of The Climate” (2023) Report. According to Rutgers: (emphasis mine)

The report provides an overview of outstanding 2023 weather events, followed by an in-depth analysis of historical climate data and future projections for New Jersey.

The authors focus on temperature, sea-level rise, precipitation, and extreme events, including a discussion of the summer 2023 Canadian wildfires that impacted air quality throughout New Jersey and how wildfires may be exacerbated with continued climate change.

Registration is required and you can register here.

I)  Big Data and Policy Issues Are Buried In The Methodology, Frustrating Accountability

In general, the Report paints a pretty dire picture of projected NJ impacts. I won’t go into them here, and urge you to read the Report.

However, the formatting, structure and presentation of the data and the projection methodologies make it virtually impossible to compare it to and evaluate it in terms of exactly the same science and data that DEP relies on as the basis for various regulations. From the flood elevation maps to the air quality data to the statistical storm events, this is extremely frustrating and the practice is by design.

Of course, in this Report, Rutgers – and the State Climatologist – continue the cowardly (mal)practice of presentation and analysis  to actually frustrate an assessment of DEP regulatory policy and performance. The Report also downplays recent scientific concerns that the rate of climate warming is accelerating greatly, see:

Huge science and policy issues are buried in euphemism and use of the passive voice – examples: check out how the extent of and inability to control NJ’s over-development as a cause of flooding are hidden behind the term “type of ground cover”: (@ page 17)

The more saturated the ground, the less moisture it can accept, so more water will run off and accumulate in streams.Other factors influencing runoff include the type of ground cover and vegetation, terrain, storm duration, and precipitation intensity.

Accumulate in streams? Like flooding?

The Report does the same thing with the role of unregulated development and wildfire risk, masking DEP’s failure to limit development in high hazard wildfire areas: (@ page 27)

With more people moving into rural areas due to New Jersey’s high population density and housing pressure in urban areas, more human-caused wildfires are likely to occur.

Ironically, this statement cites the NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan. That was data I relied on in a petition for rulemaking to DEP to limit hazardous development – DEP denied it.

It’s as if land development (“more people moving”) were like the weather: an uncontrollable natural phenomenon!

Similarly, they continue a timid methodology which creates an artificial wall between just presenting the “science”, as opposed to engaging DEP policy and regulation. I’ve long been critical of this approach to communicating science and public policy, see:

Most glaringly, the Rutgers report does not mention actual NJ specific greenhouse gas emissions and trends in emissions or any ability to understand whether the State is making progress in reducing these emissions in terms of meeting science based reductions or the voluntary emission reduction goals established by the NJ Global Warming Response Act. see:

These practices effectively provide cover for major policy failure by the Governor, the Legislature, the DEP. They let the corporate climate polluters who emit greenhouse gases continue with impunity (i.e. no regulatory compliance obligations or financial accountability for “the social cost of carbon” their pollution imposes on NJ residents and ecosystems).

II)  New Wildfire Emphasis

This year’s Report includes a new section highlighting wildfire issues. My bullshit meter was immediately pinned.

This emphasis was not surprising, given the DEP’s recent emphasis on wildfires, nor was the fact that Rutgers broke their own fake wall between science and policy, even citing – multiple times – DEP press releases for data! (see footnotes 67, 68, and 93).

Of course, Rutgers does not go near any of the relevant DEP regulatory data or Clean Air Act State Implementation Plans (SIPs) for fine particulates and Ozone related to wildfire issues – including a currently pending ozone SIP – as I recently wrote about. see:

The Report, with one exception, also fails to mention the relationships with DEP’s failed forest management policies, with this exception, which inadvertently documents why DEP’s forestry and “prescribed burn” policies are fatally flawed:

Although it is projected that rainfall may increase in New Jersey on average, increasing temperatures and water demand will result in drier soils less suitable for agriculture and more conducive for wildfires in forest environments. (@ page 16)

On June 1st, a lightning strike ignited a wildfire in Quebec Province that grew
rapidly due to these dry conditions, continuous southeasterly winds, and unusually high temperatures and drought. (@ page 22)

Following this process, 63% of the variability in the Canada-wide annual area burned from 1959 to 1999 was affected by summer available moisture. (@ page 27)

In contrast, the DEP “prescribed burn” program mistakenly assumes that “fuel load” is the driver of wildfire risk, ignoring the science that document that humidity, wind, and soil moisture are the major factors, see:

The DEP burns pollute the air and risks uncontrolled wildfire.

Amazingly, Rutgers fails to note that, according to DEP ozone SIP, that some of the wildfires that impacted NJ were caused by a “prescribed burn” that got out of control! see:

Rutgers also fails to mention that DEP forestry (logging) projects reduce canopy cover, increase fragmentation and penetration of sunlight and wind, which dry out soils, duff, and vegetation, thereby increasing wildfire risks. They also stimulate the growth of invasive grasses and other highly combustible plants that also increase wildfire risks.

III) Air Quality Analysis Suggest Large Flaws In DEP Air Quality Monitoring

See below.

Given the above and other flaws, I posed a few questions to the Rutgers crew and asked that they respond to the following questions at Thursdays webinar. These are right up Ms. Kaplan’s wheelhouse, as she is a former longtime DEP professional.

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <b>

To: “kaplan@envsci.rutgers.edu” <kaplan@envsci.rutgers.edu>

Cc: “Grogan, Susan [PINELANDS]” <Susan.Grogan@pinelands.nj.gov>, “shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov” <shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov>, “john.cecil@dep.nj.gov” <john.cecil@dep.nj.gov>, “ben.spinelli@highlands.nj.gov” <ben.spinelli@highlands.nj.gov>, Mark Lohbauer <mlohbauer@jgscgroup.com>, “wparry@ap.org” <wparry@ap.org>, “fkummer@inquirer.com” <fkummer@inquirer.com>, “jonhurdle@gmail.com” <jonhurdle@gmail.com>, Ken Dolsky <kdolsky@optonline.net>, Silvia Solaun <ssolaun@gmail.com>, Anjuli Ramos <anjuli.ramos@sierraclub.org>, “Taylor McFarland, NJ Sierra Club” <taylor.mcfarland@sierraclub.org>, “emile@njconservation.org” <emile@njconservation.org>, “carleton@pinelandsalliance.org” <carleton@pinelandsalliance.org>, Jason Howell <jason@pinelandsalliance.org>, Jaclyn Rhoads <jaclyn@pinelandsalliance.org>, Ruga Elliott <elliott@njhighlandscoalition.org>, Julia Somers <julia@njhighlandscoalition.org>, Matthew Smith <msmith@fwwatch.org>, domalley <domalley@environmentnewjersey.org>, “dpringle1988@gmail.com” <dpringle1988@gmail.com>, “Tittel, Jeff” <jeff.tittel@verizon.net>

Date: 07/08/2024 8:29 AM EDT

Subject: Rutgers State of Climate Report

Hi Ms. Kaplan – I’m reading the Report now and had a few questions on the new wildfire section.

1. Air quality monitoring data and analysis relies on EPA stations and interpolation. (maps are from Canadian sources?)

Why was there no mention of the DEP monitoring network and why no use of that data?

That DEP data is used for regulatory purposes in the NJ Clean Air Act SIP, I assume it is more robust, representative, and reliable.

2. There seem to be conflicts between the Rutgers air quality “hazard” analysis and the DEP SIP plans for PM 2.5 and ozone. Conflicts deal with frequency, duration and severity of the air quality hazards and health risks.

DEP SIP’s for PM 2.5 and Ozone report fewer and less severe violations of NAAQS that the Rutgers analysis suggests.

Are those conflicts a result of methodology and do they suggest that NAAQS are inadequate or is DEP air quality monitoring and SIP planning inadequate?

3. Why was national data on hospital admissions due to asthma (17% increase) used instead of NJ specific data?

I was out west for the last 7 years and am aware of wildfire issues. I assume that the national data reflect western conditions, which are far more extensive in scope (geography) and severity and duration.

4. The Report mentions a wildfire on Allen Road in Brigantine. This wildfire was the WORST in terms of air quality impact:

“Another day to note, on June 2nd, the Brigantine station registered a higher AQI than the rest of the sites due to smoke from the Allen Road wildfire in Bass River Township that burned 5,474 acres, 67,68 leading to locally degraded air quality.” (page 24)

The US Air Force REPI program data state that they create a NJ wildfire once every 10 – 14 days – I’ve written about that, see:


Here is a map showing the location of in proximity to the Warren Grove AFB to Allen Road:


The DEP also conducted a “wildfire prevention” forest management logging project along Allen Road.

Was the cause of that wildfire ever determined?

I find the location and timing with respect to the Warren Grove AFB and the DEP wildfire project more than coincidental.

5. DEP conducts a “prescribed burn” program that creates air quality impacts and risks of out of control wildfire – why was this program not mentioned and analyzed?

6. DEP conducts forest management programs that impact carbon emissions and budgets, wildfire, soil moisture, and air quality – again, why no mention of this?

7. Why no mention of DEP data on NJ’s greenhouse gas emissions and trends?

Why is analysis limited to global emissions? 

Please respond to these questions during the July 10 briefing.

Bill Wolfe

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