Category Archives: Climate Change

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 17, 2019

Left image: USFWS

Celebrate Pollinator Week

Today kicks off National Pollinator Week! Massachusetts is home to hundreds of pollinator species vital to fruit and vegetable crops and ecosystem health. Many pollinator species are in serious decline, but there are lots of ways you can help.

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

  • Mass Audubon will be speaking at this event next week on transforming climate awareness into action
  • Two and a half years into the Trump Administration, no climate change regulatory rollback has yet survived legal challenge in court

Climate Funding Bills in the Spotlight

Bills filed by Governor Baker and Speaker DeLeo to fund climate change preparedness will have hearings at the State House this week. We’ll be providing testimony with partners, including our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition, in support of both bills. Look for our comments in next week’s Roundup.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 10, 2019

Popsicle photo credit: Lorie Shaull (CC BY SA 2.0); Solar photo credit: Kylee Wilson

Action You Can Take This Week: Help Protect Our Coasts

Legislation protecting Massachusetts waters from offshore oil and gas drilling had its State House hearing last week. The bill, S.448, would make it more difficult for federal drilling projects to move forward off our coasts. We support S.448, and you can support it too.

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Communities Making the Right Choice

Across Massachusetts, communities are taking their energy decisions into their own hands. Many have started incorporating renewable energy components into their Community Choice Aggregation programs as a way to step up on local climate action.

Funding Farming Programs for Schools

We’ve submitted testimony in support of state legislation to fund schools’ collaboration with local farms – a win/win, since assisting schools to serve local food in school meals, provide nutrition education, and increase garden-based learning would benefit students, teachers, and farmers.

Help Protect Our Coasts from Drilling

State legislation protecting Massachusetts waters from offshore oil and gas drilling had its State House hearing last week. The bill, S.448, An Act protecting our coasts from offshore drilling, would limit or prohibit state-level approvals and activities related to offshore drilling, making it more difficult for federal drilling projects to move forward off our coasts.

The US Department of the Interior plans to expand offshore oil and gas leasing off US coastlines. This expansion – not to mention the potential for catastrophic oil spills – off the Massachusetts Outer Continental Shelf could have severe impacts on fisheries, wildlife habitat, and geological resources.

Massachusetts and all of New England depend on a thriving coastal and ocean economy, and that success in turn depends on healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems. This expansion would place at risk natural resources like Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which provides feeding and nursery grounds for species like the endangered humpback and North Atlantic right whale, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, biodiversity hotspots that are home to deep sea corals found nowhere else on Earth. It would also be a big step backwards in our fight against climate change.  

We submitted testimony in support of S.448, and you can help too.  

If your state representative or senator is a member of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, contact them and urge them to report the bill favorably out of committee, so it can continue its path toward being signed into law. Even if your legislator isn’t on the Committee, you can ask them to contact Committee members in favor of the bill.

The mytilus seamount, part of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, is home to a diverse array or corals. Photo credit: NOAA

A federal judge recently upheld permanent protection for certain areas of the Atlantic Ocean, along with nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, against the drilling expansion, but the federal government is appealing that decision. Even in the case of another court victory, much of the Atlantic Ocean is still at risk from expanded drilling. S.448 would provide an added layer of protection to lessen that risk.  

Most of our neighboring New England states are considering similar legislation, and if enacted, these bills collectively could help protect the entire region from offshore drilling-related activity in state waters. 

Contact your legislator today to help pass this bill! 

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 3, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Youth Climate Activists

Save the date! On September 20, youth activists will be holding a global climate strike. Learn how you can support them and how you, too, can participate in a week of action.

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Photo credit: National Park Service

A Green New Deal of Action

Mass Audubon supports the Green New Deal, but the US Senate has been unwilling to seriously discuss the climate’s breakdown. In the meantime, Massachusetts should step up at the state level. The latest Op Ed from our advocacy director dives into this idea.

Photo credit: NOAA

Support for Darker Night Skies

We submitted testimony in favor of legislation aimed at darker night skies. Brightly lit buildings can disorient migratory birds, and reducing unnecessary outdoor lighting would not only help protect wildlife, it would reduce emissions and save money.

A Battered Buffer

Mass Audubon weighed in for this Boston Globe article on the plight of the North Shore’s Great Marsh. The area is one of New England’s most vital coastal ecosystems, but climate change poses a threat to its survival.

Photo credit: Meagan Gonneea, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Offshore Wind and Whales

With partners, we commented on the Vineyard Wind project’s latest phase of permitting, which deals with marine mammal impacts. Our letter focused on ensuring species like the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale remain protected as the project moves forward.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf

Communities Making the Right Choice

Across Massachusetts, communities are taking their energy decisions into their own hands.

Climate change is the single greatest threat facing the nature of Massachusetts, and we are already seeing its effects as warming temperatures, shifting seasons, and rising sea levels are disrupting the behavior of our wildlife and the ecosystems that support them. For their part, many communities are taking measures to prepare for impacts like extreme precipitation and flood risks, completing vulnerability assessments and developing action-oriented plans to improve their resiliency.

Community members participate in a state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness workhop, facilitated by Mass Audubon staff

But we still have an opportunity to prevent the worst of these impacts from occurring, if we take bold and immediate action. For our part, Mass Audubon has eliminated all carbon emissions from electricity use through the purchase of renewable electricity and through on-site generation of solar power from our own 44 photovoltaic arrays.

Local efforts to reduce emissions at the community level are another crucial way to make a difference. That’s why many communities have started incorporating renewable energy components into their Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs, allowing them to take control over their energy choices.

Through Massachusetts state law, CCA programs enable a city or town to choose the electricity supplier for its residents and businesses. When adopting a CCA model, communities also have the opportunity to increase the renewable energy content of their electricity supply.

Solar arrays provide energy for Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center. Photo credit: Kylee Wilson

For example, the Green Energy Consumers Alliance’s “Green Municipal Aggregation” model recommends communities add at least 5% more Class I renewable energy per year into their electricity supply, compared to the 1% per year required by the state through their Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). Some communities also choose to set their initial base percentage higher – Brookline, for instance, has set their base percentage at 39% compared to the state’s 14%, and the City of Newton recently made the decision to set theirs at 60%!

Some communities, like Newton, Somerville, and all 21 towns on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard have chosen to offer customers the option to “opt up” to 100% renewable energy by purchasing Class 1 Renewable Energy Certificates equal to their total electricity consumption for an additional fee.

We encourage communities to support the adoption of CCA programs that incorporate the strongest renewable energy component possible, including by increasing the percentage of electricity from Class 1 renewable sources beyond what is required by the RPS. 

Interested? Learn more about how your community can choose CCA.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 28, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Compost for the Climate

Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Guiding Strong Ocean Management

Our advocacy director Jack Clarke has been reappointed by Governor Baker to the Massachusetts Ocean Advisory Commission. The Commission provides guidance on implementation of the state Ocean Management Plan, along with other ocean management issues.

State Budget Update

The Massachusetts Senate passed their version of the FY20 budget last week, including amendments funding Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum and a needed increase for the CPA Trust Fund. Next, the House and Senate budgets will be reconciled in conference committee

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl

Fish and Game Day at the State House

Mass Audubon congratulates former state Senator, Representative, and Environmental Affairs Secretary Bob Durand on his recent appointment to the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board.

Bob Durand and Mass Audubon’s Jack Clarke

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 20, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Support a Strong State Budget

The Massachusetts Senate begins debate on their version of the state budget tomorrow, and you can help make sure they strengthen funding for the Community Preservation Trust Fund and Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum. Ask your Senator today to support amendments for CPA and for Trailside!

Trailside’s work includes the Snowy Owl Project. Photo credit: USFWS

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

  • This May, hundreds of valedictorians across the US will deliver the same commencement message on the need for climate action.
  • Boston makes the “A” list for cities leading the world on climate action!
  • The South Shore Climate Change Symposium, co-hosted by Mass Audubon’s North River Wildlife Sanctuary, was a successful day of idea sharing
State Representative Joan Meschino was a speaker at the South Shore Climate Change Symposium

Choosing Renewable Power for Boston

Incorporating renewable energy into local power choice programs helps communities take emission reductions into their own hands. We submitted comments on the City of Boston’s draft Community Choice Power Aggregation plan, urging them to adopt the strongest renewable component possible.

Speaking Up for Healthy Soils

We also submitted testimony with partners in support of legislation to promote healthy soils statewide. Soils are essential for life on earth, and policy makers have an important role to play in planning for their long-term health.

Drumlin Farm produce

The Plastic Problem

Mass Audubon weighed in on this recent Cape Cod Times article on our plastic pollution problem – a global issue that includes significant impacts along Massachusetts coasts.

Photo credit: NOAA

Next Steps Needed on Adaptation

We joined partners in supporting state legislation that would provide a needed framework – consistent, predictable policies and regulations – to support the progress Massachusetts has made so far on adaptation planning.

Coastal properties like these are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm damage. Photo credit: John Phelan

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 13, 2019

Ask Your State Senator to Support Trailside Funding

Trailside Museum Sanctuary Director Norman Smith educating visitors. Photo © Kent Harnois

Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation, and is home to programs like the Snowy Owl Project. Help make sure Trailside gets the state budget funding it needs.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Ryan O’Sullivan

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

  • See how much you know about what can be done to fight climate change with this quiz
  • This infographic from our Community Preservation Coalition explores how the Community Preservation Act also helps combat climate change

Improving Outdoor Opportunities

Photo credit: National Park Service

We submitted testimony last week in support of An Act Establishing the Office of Outdoor Recreation, which would work across sectors like public health, tourism, and economic development to promote recreational opportunities in Massachusetts’ outdoor spaces.

Drumlin Farm Education Honored at State House

Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm has received the Secretary’s Award for Excellence for their Riverschools Project, a collaboration with local schools to strengthen awareness and appreciation of river resources. Congratulations to the team!

Input Needed: Culvert and Small Bridge Replacements

Photo credit: MassDER

Climate change is a frequent concern for communities when dealing with culvert and small bridge infrastructure, since they’ll need to accommodate increased storm flows and flood levels. The state’s Culvert and Small Bridge Working Group is seeking public input as they develop recommendations to address these and other challenges

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 5, 2019

Thank Your Congressperson for Supporting Climate Action

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Arthurguo (Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Last week Congress passed the Climate Action Now Act to uphold US commitment to the Paris climate agreement. It’s the first large-scale climate change legislation to pass congress in nearly 10 years, and Massachusetts’ delegation unanimously voted yes. Please take a minute to contact your representative to thank them for taking climate action.

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Congressman Seth Moulton last week at his Salem office, where our discussion included topics like conservation funding and regional marine fisheries issues. Learn more about the meeting.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Upholding National Environmental Protections

Green sea turtle photo credit: NOAA

We joined partners in opposing changes in the Navy’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed revision would make it easier to approve projects that adversely affect endangered and threatened species

Coastal Protections at Risk

We also submitted joint comments on proposed changes to the Coastal Zone Management Act, which would weaken state-level review of federal coastal development projects. This is especially problematic at a time when expanded offshore oil and gas drilling has been proposed at the federal level.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Delayed

Humpback whales are among the many species whose habitat could be impacted by an expansion in offshore drilling. Photo credit: NOAA

Good news though – federal plans to expand offshore drilling have been postponed. The delay is largely due to a recent court decision upholding protections in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. While this news is encouraging, a delay doesn’t mean our fight is over, so we’ll be keeping it up.

Poll of the Week

According to a MassInc poll, 68% of Massachusetts voters support the creation of a regional carbon-trading plan for transportation.

Preparing Our Communities for Climate Change

by Mike Cusher

In 2018, the United States dealt with 14 different billion-dollar weather disasters. The four highest annual occurrences of billion-dollar weather disasters have all been within the past decade, and last year’s events had a total economic impact of $91 billion. This number includes both the direct costs of destruction as well as indirect costs like lost wages during and after the disaster, both of which pale in comparison to the increased health risks and tragic loss of life due to these storms.

Massachusetts was impacted by two of these devastating weather disasters last year during nor’easters that hit in January and in March. With these events, we are seeing the destruction of our 1,500 miles of coastline and major flooding of our inland rivers. The Commonwealth is in desperate need of increased revenue to ensure our most vulnerable communities are ready for more such impacts in the coming years. We know that being proactive in response to these weather events will cost less, and reduce damage, compared with reacting to disasters after they have occurred.

The nor’easter of March 2018 caused significant coastal flooding and hurricane-force winds in Massachusetts. Photo credit: NOAAA

A big part of the solution comes from the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which enhances climate adaptation practices at the local level. The program provides support for communities across Massachusetts to consider their local strengths and vulnerabilities to climate change, and to prioritize actions they can take to create a safer and more resilient future. Mass Audubon is a certified MVP provider, and assists communities with this work.

But in addition to these local planning efforts, Massachusetts also needs more funding for state and local agencies to prioritize resilience. This occurs through actions like retrofitting vulnerable flood controls, transportation infrastructure, and water resources, and by implementing regional climate-smart land and coastal protection frameworks.

Conserving wetlands, which naturally absorb floodwaters, is one way to strengthen community resilience against climate change impacts. Photo credit: USFWS

Earlier this year, Governor Baker introduced legislation to address this need. An Act providing for climate change adaptation infrastructure investments in the Commonwealth (S.10) would create a new stream of funding to help our communities prepare for the future. The Governor’s proposal would raise $137 million annually, through a real estate tax increase, to go into the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund.  This funding would then be reinvested into our cities and towns, both through the MVP program and as other assistance for the state and local communities to protect vulnerable assets.

This legislation is a way to leverage a small increase in the deeds excise tax, paid during real estate transfers, into a major investment in the future of our Commonwealth. S.10 is a promising next step in our ongoing process to deal with the greatest threat our world has ever faced.

Mike Cusher is Mass Audubon’s legislative director