Boston–Cambridge & Climate Change

Harvard University hosted on October 7, 2015 a panel of experts to talk about

Coping with Climate Change: How Will Boston Adapt?

The panel was moderated by Professor Daniel Schrag, Director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment. Others on the panel included Atvia Martin, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Boston, James McCarthy, Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard, Carl Spector, Director of Climate and Environmental Planning for the City of Boston, and Robert Young, Director of a Program for the Study of Development Shorelines.

Harvard’s Professor James McCarthy cautioned that we tend to underestimate our exposure. Suppose the one in a thousand year event starts happening every year. Like Rotterdam, Boston anticipates that sea level rise will require drawing inspiration from Venice — converting some roads into canals.
The Boston “Resilient City” program is exploring how to develop Waterfront Protective Structures around most critical networks. Structures are built with a line of defense levies, complemented by soft infrastructure that converts endangered parts of the city into open space for new collective waterfront parks, while relocating homes to higher ground.

Atvia Martin spoke about how NOAA is bringing together people from the community of East Boston to talk about resiliency. She viewed this community planning as combining emergency management with long term response. She praised city agencies, partners, and the community for working so well together and described Living Labs to develop long term community-driven mitigation strategies.

A film narrated by Alan Berger, Professor of Architecture, MIT described planning to remove density from the waterfront and evolve Boston into a polynodal city for the future. This plan would require rethinking the entire fabric of Boston with a waterfront designed for the future and a new urban fabric. Removing people from waterfront land is not easy. Big storms like Sandy show where vulnerabilities are ­– the Achilles heel or vulnerable footprint of the community. But detailed planning needs to occur before the storm. If preplanning had occurred prior to 2005, Katrina would not have been rebuilt putting things back the way they were. A strong framework needs to be in place prior to storm catastrophes to enable learning and correcting vulnerabilities highlighted by each event.

The Interactive Map below, prepared by Assen Assenov, shows the fourteen Boston municipalities. Click on a municipality for its name. You can zoom in or out to the world (if you lose Boston, reload the page).


One response to “Boston–Cambridge & Climate Change”

  1. gmoke says:

    Solar IS Civil Defense – I’ve been promoting that idea for about 15 years now but few have picked up on it. It means that emergency and disaster preparedness can be accomplished with a little bit of renewable energy. The flashlight, radio, cellphone, and extra set of batteries we’re all supposed to have on hand, just in case, can be powered by a few square inches of solar cell. Add a hand cranked or pedal powered generator and you have a reliable source of survival electricity, day or night, by sunlight or muscle power. Incidentally, this is also entry level power for the 1.4 billion people who don’t yet have electrical power at all.

    Solar IS Civil Defense is a way to prepare for the effects of climate change, those “1000 year storms” that may be more likely to happen every year in the climate catastrophe future, without getting into the “climate change is real, no it’s not; climate change is human-caused, no its not” arguments. We all know a weather emergency or natural disaster is coming. We just don’t when it will happen or what it is. Turns out, planning to cope with that kind of uncertainty turns out to be, usually, climate change adaptation and the best of it turns out to be climate change mitigation.

    Boston is lucky and smart because our city and our Commonwealth are firmly convinced that climate change is real and that we have to deal with it. So they have and pretty intelligently too.