The Governor announced this week a package of measures to respond to climate change.
If the climate changes as much as most scientists believe it will — given the trajectory we are on — our agriculture and living patterns will necessarily change. Among the most dangerous impacts of climate change will be sea level rise. Our coastal communities will lose some lower ground outright and even their higher ground will be at heightened risk for storm surge flooding. The infrastructure improvements we will need to protect buildings and infrastructure may be vast. This is of great concern in Boston and Cambridge, where a huge chunk of the region’s economy sits on low ground next to the water.
The Governor’s plan takes some useful first steps:
- Allocates some utility charges to municipal grants for hardening energy sites. The source of funds chosen appears to limit the hardening to clean energy sites and approaches.
- Initiates vulnerability assessment activities in several agencies with responsibility for critical infrastructure —
- The Department of Public Utilities will work with utilities on energy generation and transmission
- The Department of Transportation will develop a plan for all its transportation facilities by 2015.
- The Department of Conservation and Recreation will assess the roads under its jurisdiction.
- The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency will participate in these efforts.
- Continues Coastal Zone Management investments in infrastructure — the Governor’s statement mentions $10 million in planned spending
- Tasks the Department of Public Health to consider likely new disease risks.
- Indicates an intention to seek $2 million in funding to support the various planning efforts.
I appreciate the Governor’s initiative on this issue and look forward to working his administration to move it forward. The initiative is responsive to the concerns I raised in S.344, An Act creating a process to evaluate exposure to catastrophic flooding as a result of climate change. It fits well with that legislation, which would create a stronger foundation for long-term planning by putting in place a consensus evaluation of the risk of sea level rise. At this point, there are diverse scenarios being considered by diverse agencies and there important unanswered technical questions — most notably, how well the existing sea walls on the Charles and the Mystic would protect Boston and Cambridge neighborhoods. I remain hopeful that we can enact that legislation shortly and put coastal area planning efforts on a sounder analytic foundation.