Sea-Level Research Must Change So Communities Can Better Plan for the Future

New Brunswick, N.J. (Dec. 4, 2019) – With sea-level rise threatening hundreds of millions of people, researchers must do a better job engaging communities and other stakeholders so they can make the best-informed decisions on how to adapt in the future, according to a Rutgers-led paper.

The paper, published in the journal Earth’s Future, is part of the American Geophysical Union’s “Grand Challenges” series.

“The risks of sea-level rise aren’t just about how high future flood waters will reach,” said lead author Robert E. Kopp, director of the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “They are also about how the coastline, people and ecosystems will change in response. If sea-level researchers want their research to inform climate adaptation, they have to work closely with stakeholders throughout their research process.”

“This is about making sure stakeholders are in the room so you’re asking the right questions and making sure you’re looking at the system as a whole,” Kopp added.

“In this process of thinking about adaptation, it is essential that we collaborate across all disciplines and sectors fluidly. Yet even the best-intended efforts can go astray if we do not carefully consider the different day-to-day realities that our constituencies face,” said co-author Victoria C. Ramenzoni, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Ecology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

“Some of these realities may reflect limitations within our social and political system – for example, in instituting policies that are inclusive of all voices and can address most needs equitably,” Ramenzoni said. “If we do not incorporate a critical assessment of where our policies fail, then we may repeat previous mistakes. Stakeholder engagement and true mechanisms that encourage long-term community participation represent one way we can prevent that.”

Scientists at Clark University, Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc. in Massachusetts, Montclair State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration contributed to the paper.

Kopp wrote a related piece for The Conversation in April. He also co-authored an essay on future sea-level rise in New Jersey for Rutgers–New Brunswick.

The paper: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2018EF001145

For an interview with Professor Kopp or Professor Ramenzoni, please contact Todd Bates at todd.bates@rutgers.edu                        

  
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Broadcast interviews: Rutgers University has broadcast-quality TV and radio studios available for remote live or taped interviews with Rutgers experts. For more information, contact Neal Buccino at neal.buccino@echo.rutgers.edu

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