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Experts share opinions on climate change, erosion

Concerns about climate change are increasing with the rising sea level, while erosion is becoming a serious problem on N.J. shores.

Director and producer Ben Kalina screened his climate change documentary “Shored Up” at the Cook Campus Center yesterday with a panel of experts in marine sciences and climatology.

The Rutgers Climate Institute and Cook Campus Dean Barbara Turpin, among five others, coordinated to sponsor the event.

 “Shored Up” discussed the impacts and risks of sea-level change on coastal communities from New Jersey to North Carolina.

Marjorie Kaplan, associate director of Rutgers Climate Institute, said the organization aims to educate and inform society about the causes and consequences of climate change.

According to the film, about six inches of N.J. shoreline are lost every year to erosion. If sea levels continue to rise, changes could happen around the planet.

 “Thinking about ways in which we can address or adapt to sea-level rise in our own backyard is a dialogue that we thought would be important to the Rutgers community,” Kaplan said.

Scientists claim the changes in sea level and climate are highly correlated, according to the film. The 1990s saw temperature increases not seen in at least 1,500 years.

As ice sheets melt, water enters the ocean, causing the sea level to rise. This also interrupts the gravitational attraction of water to ice sheets.

Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, said the “danger zone” caused by rising sea levels is bound to get larger and more intense over time.

According to the film, the Coastal Research Center at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey predicted a 39-inch sea-level rise in North Carolina by 2100, which could have serious economic consequences.

Humanity is in constant conflict between their desire to control nature and their inability to control it, Dillingham said.

“In the aftermath of Sandy, we are seeing some of those same tensions unresolved,” he said. “The debate about whether or not we should acknowledge climate change continues.”

Norbert Psuty, professor emeritus of Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, said throwing sand on the beaches would do nothing to change the amount of flooding.

Sea-level rise is drowning the coast and eroding the land, he said. But society could use funds to change the exposure of water to the land and reduce the costs.

“We must discuss it, debate it and act on it,” he said.

Both the guest speakers and those speaking in the film agreed one of the biggest issues faced with global warming and its consequences is getting public recognition and support of preventative actions.

Benjamin Horton, professor at the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, hopes the film brings the public into the debate and makes them see the importance of taking action.

He had debated with the NC-20, a collaborative of North Carolina coastal counties, and said none of its members have studied sea-level rise.

“I have spent 50 years of my career studying it, so I think I know more than them, but that doesn’t seem to matter,” he said.

The film mentioned many people are reluctant to fight climate change because of the subsequent tax hike.

According to the film, for some the priority is to preserve the money they have at the expense of the majority of the population.

Jeffrey Gebert, chief of Coastal Planning Section in Philadelphia, Pa., said cost sharing was the key issue.

“There is a night and day difference between which areas are protected and which areas are not. It’s a political decision,” Gebert said. “The most important question is, ‘Who should pay for what?’”

Psuty said society must identify which places are most vulnerable to nature in order to prevent an endless cycle of building, rebuilding and replenishing as a result of storms.

The responsibility of the community, the state and the nation is to somehow reduce the amount of sea exposure in these areas, Psuty said.

Chisa Egbelu, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he was tired of the snow and came to the screening to learn more about climate change.

“I really wish I looked at the Rutgers events calendar more often so that I could know when events like these are happening,” Egbelu said.

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