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Boston: Preparing For Climate Change

One of The Few American Cities Actually Taking Care of It's Citizens

The City of Boston launched Climate Ready Boston to help Boston plan for the impacts of climate change and build a resilient future. Climate Ready Boston is an ongoing initiative. The organization works with the community and other partners to advance a responsible and effective vision for a Climate Ready Boston. Boston residents are already affected by extreme heat, rain, snow and flooding. These trends will only continue so in 2021 Boston started engaging in neighborhood and youth idea sessions to find out what communities needed to stay healthy and secure in a climate emergency.

“In Boston...most people don’t have enough money to go and buy a cool drink, And most of us kids, especially Black ones, aren’t allowed at the community pools, or ponds, or lakes, Because we cause problems and disturbances, Or really just because we look intimidating and too much like gangsters. If most people can’t afford to buy a cool drink, They definitely can’t afford to buy an AC or a fan. It's just too expensive to keep yourself cold, And there aren’t a lot of options, and there aren’t a lot of places to go to cool down.” Boston’s heat problem, This is prose by Joshua Alves, shared during the youth ideas session in 2021

“In summer 2021, the project team partnered with the Boston Public Library (BPL) and the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) to pilot two of the six outdoor WiFi Cool Spots at BPL branches across Boston. Cool Spots at the Egleston Branch in Roxbury and the East Boston Branch served as popup outdoor community spaces that provided 24-hour daily internet access. These sites expanded access to WiFi and provided safe, socially distanced outdoor gathering spaces during the COVID pandemic. The designs included a range of cooling features, including shaded seating and misting.

Each Cool Spot contained a series of temperature sensors that provided real-time reporting of weather conditions at various points across the sites, allowing Cool Spot visitors to see how shade and vegetation influence air temperatures and how experiences can vary significantly even across a small area. The Cool Spots served as community resilience hubs where the City provided information about heat relief, including materials on how to access free fans and air conditioner units, utility assistance, and other support through City of Boston and partner programs such as food assistance and rental relief.” (excerpt from Boston’s Heat Resilience Plan 2021)

Climate change poses a greater threat to some Bostonians. Seniors and young children, people with limited English proficiency, and those with low incomes, medical illnesses, or disabilities are all at elevated risk.1 Centering environmental justice and equity throughout planning processes can ensure that strategies and outcomes meet the needs of all Bostonians. Specifically, by 2060 under the worst circumstances, the area in and around Boston could see almost 10 degrees of temperature increase longer summers, coupled with the potential for more than 10’-12’ feet of sea rise.

Future temperatures in Boston will depend on how much we are able to cut our greenhouse gas emissions if we are able to cut them at all. If emissions trends continue at the current rate (RCP 8.5), climate projections estimate that the number of very hot days (over 90°F) will most likely (17th to 83rd percentile) increase from 15-20 days currently to 62-70 days by 2060. Under a reduced emissions scenario (RCP 4.5), the number of very hot days (over 90°F) is projected to most likely be 30 to 50 days by 2070. Even if emissions are reduced, Bostonians will have to deal with increasing heat risk. This will also have an effect on schools, taxable income and social services and jobs as well as population demographics and the number of births decline the more hot days you have among certain populations. Climate change will likely bring more hot weather and heat deaths to the Greater Boston area over the coming decades, as well as wrecked septic systems, more rain, fewer lobsters and cranberries, threats to drinking water, and more flooding on Morrissey Boulevard. "What residents are seeing already is real, whether it's hotter summers, whether it's the storms that we're seeing, whether it's changes in weather patterns in general, folks are really getting that climate change is a critical issue for them." says Sanjay Seth, climate resilience program manager for the city of Boston in a recent interview with Boston’s WBUR Radio

Just because the news doesn't talk about it doesn't mean our city government is sleeping on being prepared for climate change.Boston is raising streets, building berms and even requiring that new high-rise condominium developments on its harbor acquire “aqua fences” — portable metal barriers that can be dragged to the street and anchored to the pavement to deflect incoming waves. Boston was ranked the world’s eighth most vulnerable to floods among 136 coastal cities by a 2013 study produced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The sea that surrounds Boston crept up nine inches in the 20th century and is advancing ever faster toward the heart of the city.

As climate change accelerates, the pace of sea-level rise in Boston is expected to triple, adding eight to twelve inches over 2000 levels by 2025, according to a report commissioned by the city. The ocean might climb as much as three feet above 2013 levels by 2060! Boston’s low-income neighborhoods, where public housing projects were built on landfill, are particularly vulnerable to flooding. By the end of the century, a large part of the Dorchester neighborhood, which on its own would be the fourth-largest city in Massachusetts, could be underwater. So while landlords are raising your rents they are quietly moving to homes away from the coast inner city and at higher elevations like Fort Hill, The Blue Hills areas of Milton, Hyde Park and Mattapan.Home buyers,Cooperatives, and developers should consider looking in the Lower Mills, Ashmont, and Cedar Grove areas of Dorchester as well a diverse and expanding community, the most southerly areas of the neighborhood with comfort food restaurants, bars,and sidewalk cafes, (see topographic map of Boston)


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