Boston Preparing For Climate Change, Higher Sea Levels

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The Boston division of the Urban Land Institute published a report on September 1st detailing its plans to deal with the climate-related rising sea levels expected to begin impacting the city’s back bay within a few decades. The ULI report notes that Boston is the “eighth most vulnerable city in the world in terms of overall cost of damage,” and also noted Boston’s cost to combat climate change was likely to top $1 trillion by 2020.

Statements on Boston’s plans

“The realities of climate change and associated sea level rise and natural hazards have become increasingly clear,” noted Brian Swett, Boston’s chief of environment, energy and open space, in the ULI report. “The city and private sector need to make sure that our current and future buildings and infrastructure are prepared.”

“In February of 2013, it [the City] launched the Climate Ready Boston initiative, which built on the work of The Boston Harbor Association, and they have been doing a very deep dive on vulnerability of the city,” said Dennis Carlberg, director of Sustainability@BU, in his contribution to the report.

With the effects of climate change on the horizon, Bostonians can expect to see more days over 90 degrees, more frequent storms, higher winds and issues with resource availability, Carlberg also noted.

“To prevent the climate change, we all need to reduce the amount of energy we use,” he continued. “It gets to the core of our whole sustainability effort, [which is] reducing energy consumption. If we reduce energy consumption, we reduce our green house gas emissions, and that reduces the problem we have to deal with a hundred years from now.”

Details on the plan

The ULI report offers does not offer any quick fixes for climate change, but it does emphasize the importance of the development of new public policy, adding more planted or porous surfaces to absorb water and creating an urban canal system for the city.

The report authors suggest an “incremental, phased approach” to upgrading Back Bay’s infrastructure. Even beginning now before sea levels have changed much, building the required infrastructure poses challenges and risks to public health, and the problem will only become greater as time passes.

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