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Piscataway NJ 08854
Global climate change is related to the greenhouse gas effect; however, the two terms are not interchangeable. The greenhouse gas effect is a chemical phenomenon taking place high in the Earth's atmosphere. Certain chemicals such as carbon dioxide and water vapor retain heat that radiates into the Earth's atmosphere, and traps it in, warming the Earth as a whole. The process is similar to how the windows of a greenhouse trap heat in, warming the air and plants. Without the greenhouse gas effect the Earth's crust would be too cold to sustain life as we know it. Scientists do not debate the validity of the greenhouse gas effect. There is scientific debate as to the scope and effect of global climate change. As more and more greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere, it is theoretically possible climate patterns will change.
It is not immediately clear why increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would change climate patterns. Climate is closely linked to temperature. If it is cold enough rain becomes snow; hot enough and wind patterns can change. While there is scientific uncertainty about global climate change, it is not uncertainty the way we normally use the word. Climatologists use sophisticated computer models to see how different levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere change climates under different situations. These models create different scenarios which have different probabilities of occurring. This is where the uncertainty comes in; something is happening to our climate, but as of yet it is unclear which outcome will occur.
The main greenhouse gases as determined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency are: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, fluorinated gases, and water vapor. Obviously carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor are created naturally by volcanic eruptions, plant and animal life, and the hydraulic cycle. What has changed in the last 150 years is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by humans. Especially, humans have been emitting large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon is one of the essential elements to life, as in "carbon-based life forms" for those sci-fi fans. Without carbon life would not exist. Because carbon is in every plant and animal, it is recycled through different processes. Diamonds are carbon that has been compacted under great pressure. Coal is also carbon, as is oil. Large pockets of matter came together, and after eons formed the fuels we use today. Before the industrial revolution people burned coal and oils for heat and light, but not to the extent we do today. And there were fewer people back then. Nowadays, you cannot live without using a carbon based fossil fuel. Do to human activity large amounts are carbon are being emitted into the atmosphere.
As mentioned earlier, there are many different possible outcomes from global climate change and even the mildest holds some significant impacts for the state of New Jersey. We are the Garden State. Most plant species have adapted to very specific temperature and water conditions. Even a slight variation in temperature could have large impacts on the crops grown in New Jersey. The composition of our forests would change as well, with the hard wood oaks all but moving out of the State.
The worst impact of climate change on our state will have to do with water. New Jersey has over 300 km of coast line, and if sea levels rise, that is 300 km that will be flooded. Our coasts have sand beaches, marshes, bogs and wetlands. If sea levels rise we could expect salt water intrusion in our ground water and aquifers. If temperatures climb, it is possible to see a significant increase in precipitation. In a State already prone to flooding, this could be devastating. However, here is where some uncertainty comes in. While increased temperatures could increase the amount of rain fall we get, it is also possible that we would experience extended droughts. With less potable water to go around, new allocation schemes would be necessary to ensure the health and safety of our citizens, farmers, and industry.
It is clear that some regulatory action needs to be taken to ensure we do not experience global climate change in any form. In the absence of Federal or international agreements, it is up to the States to determine how they want to protect their future. Senator Smith has worked hard to pass many laws that would decrease our emissions of greenhouse gases. He has fully supported Senator Barbara Buono and Senator Thomas H. Kean, Jr. in passing their "Global Warming Response Act". This act which passed the Assembly 72-8 and in the Senate 36-1, calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels by the year 2020. Now there are many ways to reduce emissions. Senator Smith and his colleagues has introduced and passed a variety of bills that will result in lower emissions.