Category Archives: Climate Change

Climate Adaptation Legislation Passed!

We are proud to report that our climate change adaptation legislation, our top legislative priority for the past four years, has passed as part of major environmental legislation (see below). This bill makes law a requirement for Massachusetts to adopt a statewide plan to address the impacts of climate change, and also codifies a grant and technical assistance program for cities and towns to develop their own plans. The bill also leaves the door open for future development of a voluntary coastal buyback program, which would help willing homeowners relocate away from hazardous coastal zones. It will be the first plan of its kind in the country to be codified into law.

Protecting wetlands that act as natural flood absorbers is one adaptation strategy

Along with our 52-member Climate Change Adaptation Coalition, we thank the bill’s sponsors Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) and Representative Frank Smizik (D-Brookline) for their tireless dedication in getting this bill over the finish line.

Details on the Environmental Bond

The environmental bond that includes our adaptation bill is now on the way to Governor Baker’s desk for his signature. The bond bill passed today was a compromise between the versions passed separately in the House and Senate. It authorizes $2.4 billion funding for conservation grant programs, climate resiliency, and coastal infrastructure, with special consideration given to projects utilizing nature-based solutions. In addition to our climate adaptation bill, the bond included a number of other policy provisions we support including the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership, a grassroots initiative to stimulate conservation, sustainable forestry, and eco-tourism in the Berkshire region.

Our Commonwealth Conservation Council, a coalition of statewide organizations which Mass Audubon chairs, advocated for a strong bond bill. While we consider the final legislation to be a success, we were disappointed that several components from Senate version were not included in the final bill. These included a provision to ensure consistency between the statewide adaptation plan and other state policies, a statewide plastic bag ban, and codification of the state’s “no net loss” policy for permanently-protected conservation land.

Action You Can Take This Week: Ask Your State Senator to Support Climate Change Funding

The Governor’s environmental bond bill is expected to go to the Senate floor for a vote this week. This bond includes several components of our priority climate change adaptation bill, and if signed into law, its passage will be an important step toward implementing goals we’ve been advocating for over the past six years.

You can help by contacting your state Senator and asking them to vote yes on S.2591.

Climate Central Explains Reality – Four U.S. Senators Object

By Daniel Brown

Four Republican Senators, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, James Lankford, and Jim Inhofe, each of whom have denied the reality of climate change in the past, signed a letter asking the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate funding they awarded to the non-profit organization Climate Central, suggesting Climate Central is propagandizing. That’s false. Climate Central is not an advocacy organization. They simply explain scientific reality.

Climate Central has been using the NSF funds to run the Climate Matters program, which educates local TV meteorologists about climate change. The program has been incredibly successful. It has measurably improved TV meteorologists understanding of how climate change influences short-term weather conditions. In the past, TV meteorologists, who usually major in communications or meteorology to focus on 10-day weather forecasts, often receive little or no education on climate changes that span decades or more. As a result, local weather forecasters tended to be more skeptical of climate change than climate scientists. According to NBC News, the Climate Matters program has been extremely effective at closing that gap. As of 2017, 95% of TV forecasters understand that the climate is changing.

Flooding following a storm this past winter. Photo credit: FEMA

Climate Central simply teaches the scientific facts of climate change—the same publicly available information that can be found in the Fourth National Climate Assessment or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports. The only thing different about what Climate Central does is their approach and masterful skill in communicating facts that have been out there, vetted, peer-reviewed, and verified in study after study.

Climate Central’s work is used widely teachers and policymakers and other professionals. Their Surging Seas tool, for example, helps communities identify risks from rising sea levels. They constantly identify changes in aspects of climate that could pose risks for various industries, like maple sugaring, lobstering, or downhill skiing. They provide a great education service and help us responsibly prepare for what’s ahead.

The four Senators took notice of Climate Central’s work only after NBC News made it clear that scientific facts were defeating misinformation. Science, communicated well by Climate Central, funded effectively by the NSF and summarized with good journalism by NBC News and other outlets, compelled these four Senators to deny the reality we face. It’s troublesome that political leaders continue to object to science education that can help protect Americans from harm. We need our lawmakers to rely on sound evidence to build a better future for our kids and grandkids.

Participants in the Boston March for Science

In Massachusetts, we must continue to thank our U.S. delegation for supporting action on climate change, and we need to remind them that Massachusetts is and must remain a leader in supporting climate education and finding solutions.

Daniel Brown is Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Program Coordinator

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Adaptation Funding in the Environmental Bond

The Governor’s environmental bond bill (H.4438) is expected to go to the House floor for a vote this week. This bond includes several components of our priority climate change adaptation bill, and if signed into law, its passage will be an important step toward implementing goals we’ve been advocating for over the past six years.

You can help by contacting your state representative and asking them to vote yes on H.4438.

Massachusetts Should Look to California on Rooftop Solar

By Daniel Brown

The California Energy Commission voted unanimously last week to require rooftop solar on new homes and apartments by 2020, with reasonable exceptions. The commission estimates the new rules will lead to a reduction of 493 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year. That’s approximately equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road or the amount of carbon sequestered by 965,000 acres of healthy forestland. That’s an area about 20% larger than Rhode Island.

There is no way to generate electricity in a more environmentally-friendly way than through rooftop solar installations and they provide a number of financial benefits to the property owner over time. Whereas other good options like wind and community solar often require open space, rooftop solar utilizes already-developed space. That leaves more room for parks, conservation areas, and vital green spaces that keep our towns and cities healthy and resilient to a changing climate.

Rooftop solar on a home in Sonoma, CA. Massachusetts should be following California’s lead in championing this kind of renewable energy generation. Photo: Sonoma County

A common concern about rules requiring solar panels is the potential increase in cost of home ownership, but rooftop solar will add $40 on average to a monthly mortgage payment while giving the same household $80 in savings on energy costs.

Massachusetts can and should lead as California has. Bay Staters have repeatedly demonstrated support for renewable energy initiatives that improve the health of the planet for future generations. Massachusetts is often rated among the most attractive states for adding solar panels to rooftops, and is, by some measures, the best. Massachusetts also has a leg up on California in community solar development, a fact experts often attribute to manageable regulations and progressive incentives that make community-scale projects attractive.

Harnessing the sun, shown here setting over Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, is one of our smartest energy opportunities

But our requirements for rooftop solar on new development are lagging behind. In 2014, California required new houses to have roofs and electrical systems that were compatible with solar panel installations. While some communities in Massachusetts have put in place similar rules, many more should follow suit, and a statewide standard like California’s first step would make smart development easier in the coming years.

To meet Massachusetts’ Global Warming Solutions Act mandate of an 80% carbon emissions reduction by 2050, we will need to pursue aggressive, innovative solutions that benefit everyone in the Commonwealth. Rooftop solar is one strategy we will need to employ. It is the future. It’s better, it’s smarter, and it’s coming whether it’s now or later. The sooner we embrace it, the brighter that future will be.

Daniel Brown is Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Program Coordinator

Help Climate Change Funding Move Forward

Updated 5/17/18

The Governors’ Climate Change Bond, which includes many of Mass Audubon’s priority adaptation goals, had its public hearing Tuesday before the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. The bill (H.4438) is an important step forward for boosting funding for climate change preparedness, bringing the state’s bond authorization for that purpose to $300 million. Our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition is also still urging the legislature to add in a “consistency provision,” which would ensure the Commonwealth’s climate change plan does not sit on a shelf when completed but instead is implemented and complied with by state agencies.

You can help by calling the Committee at (617) 722-2017 and asking them to report H.4438 out favorably. Please also also ask them to support our Coalition’s “consistency provision” amendment. Our Coalition, which is co-chaired by Mass Audubon, has already provided testimony to the Committee. Read it here for more information on the additions we hope to see made.

A Closer Look at Coastal Buyback

With Massachusetts’ climate change adaptation needs frequently in the news following our series of recent storms, the possibility of a voluntary coastal buyback program has been getting more attention. A coastal buyback program, which is one proposed solution in our priority adaptation bill, would allow the state to purchase properties that suffer chronic storm damage.

Photo credit: FEMA

Some coastal homes have had to be repeatedly rebuilt or moved back from the beach following severe storms. A buyback program would offer an alternative for property owners and would save building and flood insurance costs. Reclaimed property would be returned to communities, and allowing the land to return to its natural state would restore barriers to flooding and provide a more resilient landscape. This process of property owners choosing not to rebuild after a storm and instead relocating away from the vulnerable shoreline, also known as managed retreat, ties into public safety as well.

Mass Audubon’s Jack Clarke recently spoke with Fox25 Boston and WBGH on the proposed buyback program. He also offers some input during this short WGBH radio segment:

 

Big News for Climate Adaptation Funding

Mass Audubon staff joined Governor Charlie Baker, state officials, and nonprofit partners on the windy shores of Scituate last week where the Governor announced the filing of a 5-year, $1.4 billion capital spending bond. The good news for us: the proposed bond includes several aspects of our priority climate change adaptation bill.

As proposed, the bond would codify into law requirements for vulnerability assessments based on future climate change impacts, positions for science and state agency climate coordinators, and the statewide Integrated Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation Plan. It also requires ongoing support and an increase in funding for the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, through which several Mass Audubon staff have been certified as trainers. Boosts in funding are also proposed for existing programs like the state’s Clean Water Trust Fund, state parks, and forest land protection programs.

Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke, Governor Charlie Baker, and Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton at the bond announcement in Scituate

The bond does not include every component of our adaptation bill. For instance, we would like to see its voluntary coastal buyback provision included, which would authorize the state to purchase storm-damaged properties along the shore. But it’s still a huge step toward implementing goals we’ve been advocating for over the past five years. Our job now is to work with the legislature to further strengthen and improve the bond, and get it back on Governor Baker’s desk soon for his signature.

With support from Governor Baker and Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton, we hope we have the momentum we need this time to get climate adaptation measures signed into law.

Learn more about the bond’s funding breakdown and see what Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke had to say in this WBUR piece on the announcement, and in this Salem News article.

And you can read the language of the bond itself here.

Adaptation Needs in the News

Massachusetts’ climate change adaptation needs have continued to top the headlines over the past week, as communities around the state are still reeling from the impacts of recent storms. Here’s some of the recent coverage:

TV

Radio:

  • WBUR’s story about recent storms, and the questions they’ve raised about how to protect our cities
  • Jack Clarke offering input on the coastal buy-back provisions of our Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) bill during a WGBH segment:

 

Newspapers/online

  • The lead editorial in this Sunday’s Boston Globe focuses on “a must-do list for climate change in Greater Boston”
  • An earlier look by The Boston Globe’s at some of the recent storm damage, with input from Mass Audubon
  • State House News Service reports on our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition’s efforts to urge House leadership to take action on CAMP
  • WGBH’s piece on State House dynamics that have led to challenges in getting CAMP passed
  • This Banker and Tradesman column by A Better City’s Rick Dimino (who’s also a member of our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition) encourages the House to pass CAMP from a business standpoint

Jack Clarke discussing adaptation needs on The Take with Sue O’Connell

Senator Pacheco Speaks Out on Adaptation Needs

In light of recent storms, Massachusetts state senator Marc Pacheco, the lead sponsor of our climate change adaptation bill, gave a rousing speech on the Senate floor today on the critical need for action on adaptation planning. Here’s the speech in its entirety:

March 5th, informal session.

Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton): “This year, we saw two hundred-year storms in a matter of two months. We had homes underwater and almost half a million people in Massachusetts without power. Roads were closed, and people were asked to evacuate. Nine people died – one right here in Massachusetts. Public safety officials tell us that the flooding is the worst that they have seen. If there’s ever a time to get climate readiness and climate adaptation into statute, it’s now.

In November, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to create a climate adaptation management plan, and this is the fifth time we have done so. We should see the writing on the wall. If gone unchecked, severe weather will wreak immense havoc on Massachusetts. It’s already happening. It continues to happen.

Our communities, our cities and towns, are facing serious financial risks. Homes are being destroyed, properties are being ravaged. Moody’s Investor Services has already warned us that inaction will lead to costly credit downgrades. A report from Tufts University estimated that if the United States does not act to solve the global warming crisis, it will cost the economy $3.8 trillion annually by 2100.

In 2017, 16 weather and climate disaster events resulted in losses exceeding $306 billion across the United States. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 362 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

We have the ability to protect ourselves and our communities, but we need the political will in place to take action. Climate adaptation recommendations need to become requirements in state law.

Our bill directs key state agencies to develop a comprehensive adaptation management action plan. It also creates a climate adaptation grant program and creates a coastal buyback program. We – the Senate, the House and the Baker administration – need to get this done and put it into statute.

And if we truly want to be proactive and prevent the worst effects of global climate change in the future, then we, Mr. President, need to enact a comprehensive clean energy strategy immediately. What we are presently doing is just not enough. It may be more than many other states are doing, and we pat ourselves on the back for it, but it clearly is not enough.

The Global Warming and Climate Change Committee has submitted a bi-partisan, unanimously voted-on, omnibus clean energy bill to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We look forward to the committee’s work on this bill, and hopefully we will see it before the Senate soon so that we can have the opportunity to take it up and send it over to the House. Let’s get it done.

In conclusion, Mr. President, I want to thank the countless numbers of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel, the men and women out there on the electrical poles bringing back power, all across the Commonwealth and across New England, doing so in a very, very dangerous time, during and at the end of these storms, when their lives are also placed in danger and harm’s way because of live wires, because of things they can’t see, below the water level, in areas that are flooded. And we haven’t even come close to estimating the financial costs associated with these terrible days that we have just experienced. I saw my colleague, the minority leader, and the Governor, on a shoreline, actually out there and seeing what has happened along the coastline.

I want to thank the Baker administration publicly for some of the work they have been doing relative to climate adaptation as a result of an agreement done back when we did the Energy Diversity Bill. Our minority leader and myself and many others were very involved in that. To the extent that there is work being done, it came as a result of dialogue around the Energy Diversity Bill.

But I wanted to come to the floor today to get this on the public record, under the rule we’ve set aside to do this periodically, and I think this is one of the first times that we’ve used it. And I plan on using this rule more and more and more on this issue. Because I mentioned $306 billion, nationally – where does that money come from, Mr. President? I’ll tell you where it comes from, it comes away from public education, it comes from public safety, it comes away from protecting our environment, it comes away from funding our roads and bridges. It comes away from everything that we care about in terms of the core services of running a government. That’s where those moneys are coming from. So I urge us today to recommit ourselves to ensuring that we will get these things done. Because it is urgent that we do so.

Thank you, Mr. President.”