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Making Boston Resilient by Barnard Blogger Alexander Hedge

My relationship with the City of Boston runs very deep. It all started back in May of 1997 when I was born in the South End. I moved away when I was a small child, but returned to my hometown last summer to work for a construction firm. During that summer I lived with my brother in Southie near Castle Island. It was a lovely place to spend the summer, but that might not be the case for much longer. As climate scientists release new modeling studies of climate change and sea level rise, it is clear that cities in the Northeast region of America face some of the biggest threats. When climate models are applied to places like the City of Boston, the implications of projected sea level rise look very alarming. Thankfully there has been a push by the City and Mayor Walsh to prepare for the worst case scenario. This all encompassing plan to protect the coastline of the City, including places like my brother’s neighborhood in Southie, aims to bolster the City’s resilience.

A recent study released by the City of Boston along with the help of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management and the Barr Foundation highlights the sea level rise that will accompany melting ice sheets in Antarctica as well as the sporadic and intense bouts of extreme weather that are also expected in the not too distant future. In this study the authors go on to state that “Climate Ready Boston projections indicate that Boston’s sea levels will probably rise (from 2000 levels) by at least 9 inches by 2030, 21 inches by as soon as 2050, and 36 inches by as soon as 2070.” While 9-36 inches of sea level rise doesn’t seem like it is that much it stands to completely change the face of the City of Boston.

The sea level rise that Boston faces has also been covered by local media. In a recent Boston Globe article titled “Climate change could be even worse for Boston than previously thought”, there was an in depth story covering the changes that the city faces and what these changes would mean for residents. The article describes some of the implications of projected sea level rise stating that “Such a dramatic rise would be devastating to Boston. Faneuil Hall, for example, now floods at 5 feet and Copley Square at 7.5 feet above today’s high tides”. This means that if there is 36 inches of sea level rise places like Faneuil Hall, where my summer office was, would flood more frequently. This stands to not only impact the place that I worked, but also my Brother’s home in Southie. It is almost unbelievable to think that climate change could displace my family within the next couple of decades.

The positive thing that did come from all of this coverage was a concerted effort by the City of Boston to prepare for the worst. For example, a series of near-term and long-term actions to protect the coastline of Boston and Charlestown have been proposed. This also has exciting implications for me because of my own working background in the construction industry. When I worked for a construction firm I mostly worked on projects that were LEED Certified by the US Green Building Council, but I could easily make the pivot to work towards preparing my hometown for sea level rise. The bulk of the work that was proposed in the study was “Elevated parks and pathways at Mario Umana and Shore Plaza” which could protect a large number of residents from the effects of sea level rise. It’s reassuring in the face of all of these challenges to know there is something that I can do to protect my city and my family.

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5 Responses

  1. It is interesting and reassuring to hear about local governments taking action to mitigate the effects of climate change on their cities. As you mentioned, the combination of near-term and long-term actions being taken to protect the coastline of Boston, is essential in protecting the surrounding environment. Given the attempts being made to reduce the negative outcomes on the city itself, I am curious as to if any actions are being taken as a preventative measure to reduce Boston’s contribution to the inputs of climate change as a whole.

  2. It is nice to know that some institutions recognize climate change as a real issue. I loved learning about local governments role in mitigating the effects of climate change. I enjoyed learning about Boston’s push for green infrastructure and am curious to see how much they have been able to put in place!

  3. It is upsetting to see that despite how pressing the problem of sea level rise is, there is still not enough being done at the moment to curb its effects even in relatively affluent cities. The issue has been out in the public for a while (Massachusetts vs. EPA brought much attention). Considering this, one can only imagine how worrisome the situation must be in the small island nations who stand to lose all of their land. I’m glad you are writing about the issue because without rapid action, so many people and animals stand to lose their homes in the next few decades.

  4. It is sad to hear that somewhere so close to your heart is under the intense effects of climate change. The statistics you shared with us are very problematic, however it is great to hear that knowledge of climate change is being diffused to those who live around the area and how they are attempting to mitigate the effects of it.

  5. Boston, along with New York City and other major coastal cities, will need to begin to incorporate climate change adjustments in various aspects of city planning. Hearing personal accounts of a family’s neighborhood being dramatically altered and threatened makes climate change a tangible reality. It will be interesting to see Boston implement its plans, and to see how all coastal cities can learn to adapt and share lessons.

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