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).