Category Archives: Climate Change

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.”

A Year in Review

The past year started out as a difficult one for those of us that advocate on behalf of the environment. The new President appointed friends of the fossil fuel industry to lead the country’s Environmental Protection Agency, pulled America out of the Paris climate accord, and began hacking away at programs that protect our air, land, and water.

But despite the topsy-turvy year we’ve had, here at Mass Audubon we are ending 2017 with renewed hope. Through collaboration with our partner groups, conversations with our elected and appointed government officials, and the support and action of our members and subscribers, we showed Capitol Hill the resilience and determination of America’s environmental movement.

And that’s just what we are – a movement. We organized, we marched, and we spoke up.

We’ve continued to focus on a three-pronged strategy:

First, we’ve fought to uphold our existing federal environmental laws. Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Senator Ed Markey, Congressman Jim McGovern, and aides to Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Seth Moulton, and Congresswoman Katherine Clark, where we discussed strategy for environmental advocacy at the federal level. We will continue to meet with the rest of the Massachusetts delegation in 2018. We also met with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and her senior energy and environment staff to discuss our legal options. Attorney General Healey told us that she wouldn’t hesitate to take the president to court to defend the rule of law, and she has already done so more than 15 times. We stand alongside her.

From L-R: Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and Mass Audubon Director of Public Policy & Government Relations Jack Clarke

Second, we stepped up our game at the state and local levels of government. Although the President denies climate change and supports the fossil fuel industry, 95% of utility and electricity oversight is in the hands of states, not the federal government. States like Massachusetts will continue to set the tone for reducing heat-trapping emissions and requiring industry to produce and use more green energy, and several states including ours formed the US Climate Alliance. Mass Audubon has continued to advocate for strict enforcement of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act, Green Communities Act, and the Ocean Management Act. Similarly, we will continue to defend the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, which protects 432 native Massachusetts plants and animals, and their habitats even if protections are relaxed or removed at the federal level. We’ve also continued advocating for a minimum of 1% of the overall $40 billion state budget devoted to protecting the nature of Massachusetts – we’re not there yet.

Piping plovers are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

And third, we continued to advance a progressive environmental agenda. This includes a clean energy economy, water resources protection, and land and species conservation at both the federal and state levels. A few highlights from 2017:

  • Our Advocacy director Jack Clarke engaged with hundreds of Mass Audubon members and partners around the state on our environmental advocacy strategy.
  • Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program reached over 1,000 people and showed citizens how they can help conserve land and incorporate more sustainable development methods in their cities and towns.
  • We helped pass the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in 11 more municipalities, bringing the state total to 172 cities and towns. CPA has resulted in the protection of over 26,000 acres of open space in Massachusetts.
  • Our statewide Climate Adaptation Coalition continued to grow to more than 50 organizations, who are working to ensure that Massachusetts’ residents and landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change impacts. Mass Audubon staff were also trained as providers through the Commonwealth’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program, which helps communities identify local vulnerabilities in the face of climate change and develop actions to increase resilience.
  • Our priority legislation that would better codify Massachusetts for climate change preparedness passed in the state Senate, and we are hopeful that it will pass in the House and be signed into law in 2018.
  • We supported communities that organized bans on single-use plastic bags – 61 cities and towns including Boston have now taken action to phase out these sources of pollution.

And we couldn’t have done any of this without support from our members and supporters. Thank you for all that you do to help Mass Audubon protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife. We look forward to continuing to use our collective voice and achieving even more together in 2018.

Climate Adaptation Bill Passes in the Senate

Great news! Our priority climate change adaptation legislation passed in the Senate! The vote to engross the bill, which would create a first-in-the-nation comprehensive adaptation management plan for Massachusetts to prepare for the impacts of climate change, was unanimous.

Thanks to Senator Marc Pacheco, the lead sponsor of the bill, along with Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, and Senators Karen Spilka and Bruce Tarr for their leadership on getting the bill passed, and to all Senators for voting in favor of the bill’s passage.

Next up, Mass Audubon and our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition will be advocating for the House to pass the bill.

Massachusetts State House

Action You Can Take This Week: Climate Adaptation Bill on the Move

Great news – Mass Audubon’s priority climate adaptation bill has been reported favorably as amended out of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. It now has a new bill number – S.2196 – and it will be debated on the floor of the Senate this Thursday. We will be urging Senators to vote in favor of the bill and will attend the Senate session.

You can help by contacting your Senator and asking them to VOTE YES on S.2196. Let them know that this bill helps prepare Massachusetts for the impacts of climate change by identifying where we are most vulnerable to its impacts and taking measures to protect public health, public safety, and the economy.

Photo credit: Aislinn Dewey

Action You Can Take This Week: Tackling Transportation Emissions

Consider attending or submitting comments through the state’s upcoming listening sessions on how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will be hosting public listening sessions to discuss solutions to this challenge.

Photo credit: Kevin Payravi

Massachusetts is currently on track to meet emission reduction limits of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, but progress to date has been largely driven by reductions in the power sector. The transportation sector now represents the largest share (40%) of statewide emissions, and further reductions are needed to meet our long-term emissions reduction goals.

Learn more and see all the listening session dates here.

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Clean Power

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said Monday he will issue a new set of rules overriding the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s initiative to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has pledged to sue the Trump administration over this move, saying the decision violates the law and imperils the future of the planet. You can email or call Attorney General Healey’s office at (617) 727-2200 to let her know you support this important action!

Learning from Harvey, Irma, Jose & Maria

by Jack Clarke and Christina Wiseman

We’ve been keeping the victims and everyone still reeling from the impacts of the hurricanes that battered Texas, the Southeastern US, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in our thoughts. The past few weeks’ events are also a reminder that as a coastal state, Massachusetts is at risk of flooding both from extreme storms and sea level rise. Mayor Marty Walsh recently said in an interview that “If we got hit with a storm like this, if Harvey hit Boston Harbor, we’re wiped out as a city.” We need to take time to learn how we as a state and nation can be better prepared for the climate change-induced impacts of super storms.

The unusual strength of recent storms such as Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria are most likely tied to our warming climate. Higher sea levels, along with warmer ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic where these storms formed, helped to intensify these hurricanes by increasing wind speed and by allowing the air to hold more water which eventually fell as rain. Learn more about the latest science on the links between climate change and hurricanes here.

Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico

How we develop land can affect the impacts we see from extreme weather events. In the case of the Houston, many areas that were once covered in prairie grass – which naturally absorbed stormwater – have been paved over. Now when rain falls on the impervious paved surfaces, it becomes runoff that can flood homes and roadways. Affordable and effective alternatives such as Low Impact Development work with nature rather than against it, incorporating features like rain gardens to soak up stormwater and pollution.

Mass Audubon’s climate change adaptation legislation would be a first step in making sure we’re ready for future storms by requiring the state to work with cities and towns to identify and prepare for the impacts of climate change. It’s going to take a combination of local, state, and federal-level actions to prepare for and respond to extreme weather events, which are only expected to increase in the future. Making the right decisions now can help avert some of the worst impacts of these disasters.

Federal Report Confirms Human-Induced Climate Change

by Daniel Brown

A draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes, unequivocally, that Americans are already feeling the effects of climate change and that human activity is the cause.

The Climate Science Special Report, currently in final draft form, will guide the Fourth National Climate Assessment. The National Climate Assessment is a comprehensive report required by law every four years that describes where the nation stands in regard to climate change. This drafts of the Climate Science Special Report was previously made available for public review and was re-released  to the New York Times and other news outlets earlier this month amidst fears by scientists that the Trump Administration would change or suppress the report.

Following those concerns, the Trump administration announced it was disbanding a federal advisory committee on climate change. That advisory committee would have made recommendations to government agencies based on the scientific findings of the National Climate Assessment.

The report confirms the widely-known fact that human activity has been responsible for climate change.

It’s unlikely the dismantling of the advisory team will hinder the completion of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, but it will make it harder for federal agencies to take actions based on the assessment. It could also make it more challenging for federal agencies to coordinate their efforts.

Along with recent rollbacks to Obama-era infrastructure guidelines that help communities cope with the risks of climate change, these steps by the Trump administration fit a pattern of ignoring climate scientists’ research and recommendations.

The administration could create even more obstacles to climate action in the near future. State and local governments, universities, and nonprofits will need to increase their efforts to follow the sound guidance of federal climate scientists and improve awareness of climate change in their communities.

Daniel Brown is Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Program Coordinator

Executive Order Puts Coastal Areas at Risk

Last week, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) aimed at streamlining environmental permitting regulations for major infrastructure projects such as highways and utility corridors. The EO included a revocation of a national standard requiring that federally-funded projects built in floodplains take into consideration future flood risk.

Environmental review is a major component of transportation and other infrastructure projects, which require multiple federal and state permits and reviews. These environmental reviews were borne out of public concern over destructive highway projects across the nation that damaged environmental and cultural resources. Over the past decades, federal agencies have been tasked with making the environmental review process efficient and timely (see here and here).  It is unclear the extent to which President Trump’s EO will clash with existing laws, policies, and regulations; however, it is clear that it prioritizes industry over the health and safety of citizens.

Photo credit: Aislinn Dewey

The now-repealed federal standard – known as the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, or FFRMS – ensured that federally-funded projects built in floodplains would live out their intended lifespan while protecting public health and safety. The FFRMS encouraged the use of nature-based approaches to addressing flood risks by promoting green infrastructure (systems and features engineered to mimic natural processes) as a viable tool in mitigating flood risk and building resilience. It gave flexibility to project proponents, allowing them to choose from a suite of options in order to meet the requirements of the new standard.

For many coastal cities grappling with the impacts of coastal flooding this action ignores the reality of climate change and leaves millions – including Massachusetts residents — at risk. This backslide at the federal level makes it more important than ever for the Massachusetts legislature to pass our comprehensive adaptation management plan bill.

Mass Audubon Receives Grant to Help Communities Restore Water Quality

Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program has received a grant from the Foundation for MetroWest to help communities protect and restore natural water balance and water quality through resilient landscapes. This work will focus on the MetroWest region of Massachusetts, which is experiencing climate change through more intense storm events punctuated by increased frequency of droughts – impacts that are only expected to worsen in the future. Events like these contribute to increased floods, erosion, and water pollution as well as periods of low or no flow in streams, which can stress fish and other aquatic life.

The impacts are amplified when we cover forests and fields that soak up and filter water with impervious surfaces, like sprawling developments and wide roads, that create water runoff that carries pollution into our waterways.

The Assabet River in Hudson, MA. Photo credit: John Phelan

We will introduce public and municipal officials to a more natural approach to land management through Low Impact Development (LID) and native plants. The project will demonstrate how local decisions can restore the water cycle and water quality while providing an attractive, high-quality landscape and improving climate resilience for current and future generations. The goal is to increase awareness and adoption of these cost-effective and practical techniques.

Our water resources are increasingly stressed, but conserving and restoring the natural landscape with native plants can offer social, environmental, and economic benefits.

 

Established in 1995, the Foundation for MetroWest is the only community foundation serving the 33 cities and towns in the region. The Foundation promotes philanthropy in the region, helps donors maximize the impact of their local giving, serve as a resource for local nonprofits and enhance the quality of life for all our residents. Since inception, the Foundation has granted $11.6 million to charitable organizations and currently stewards more than $15 million in charitable assets for current needs and future impact.