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
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.
Work on the Massachusetts Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan kicked off last week with a meeting for stakeholders, where attendees heard presentations from state officials and from climate scientists from the Northeast Climate Science Center.
During the meeting, participants provided feedback and asked questions about climate-related variables and vulnerabilities. The discussion was lively, focusing on a number of key issues related to both climate adaptation and hazard mitigation. Topics included extreme precipitation, flood risk, and public health, among others. New resources for communities’ use as they begin planning for the impacts of climate change will be also available through the project website. The meeting was hosted by the Mass Emergency Management Agency, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the State Plan Project Management Team, and was held at the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife headquarters in Westborough.
Installing rain gardens is a simple way for communities to reduce stormwater runoff.
Mass Audubon supports this administrative effort to develop a statewide climate action plan as a first step toward a comprehensive adaptation program, which we hope to see implemented through our priority legislation.
Presenters at the meeting also outlined how the statewide adaptation plan will work with the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program to foster climate adaptation practices at the local level. Mass Audubon is participating in the MVP program, with several staff members approved to receive training as as MVP-certified providers. Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program also offer resources for use in local resiliency planning, including an easy-to-use mapping tool and information on sustainable, low-impact development.
The state’s MVP program will provide support for municipalities across the Commonwealth to plan for climate resiliency, and providers will be trained to provide technical assistance to communities to complete vulnerability assessments and develop action-oriented resiliency plans.
Mass Audubon’s priority legislation preparing Massachusetts for the impacts of climate change was attached as an amendment to the comprehensive energy bill passed last week in the state Senate. An Act providing for the establishment of a Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan in response to climate change (CAMP) would identify where Massachusetts is most vulnerable to these impacts and take measures to protect public health, public safety, and the economy.
CAMP includes language to assess areas vulnerable to climate change impacts like Massachusetts coasts. Photo credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Now that the energy bill is in conference committee, we are working to make sure CAMP remains a part of it. You can help! Send a quick email to your legislators asking them to let the conference committee members know they support CAMP. Here’s a sample message (and see our Massachusetts Climate Adaption Coalition letter to committee members for more details):
Dear Representative/Senator X,
As your constituent, I am writing to request that you urge members of the Joint House-Senate Conference Committee on An act to promote energy diversity to retain climate change adaptation language in the final bill. The provision included for An Act Providing for the Establishment of a Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan in Response to Climate Change (CAMP) complements the energy bill with a proactive approach to protecting our economic assets, ensuring resilient infrastructure for communities and businesses, and reducing risks to public safety and health. CAMP would connect adaptation efforts at the local, regional and state levels to create an integrated approach to resiliency.
I hope you will urge the Committee to include the provisions for CAMP in its final energy bill. Thank you for your consideration.
For more on this issue and related topics, check out this Op Ed by Mass Audubon and The Nature Conservancy in last week’s Boston Globe, the recent UMass study written on the increased risks Boston faces from sea level rise, and the latest news on drought advisories this summer in Massachusetts.
Update: The CAMP budget amendment ended up being withdrawn, but there are still other avenues through which we will be working to get CAMP passed. Thanks to everyone who took action, and stay tuned for future updates!
Original post: Addressing climate change requires a dual approach of preparing for its impacts and reducing emissions. To date, Massachusetts policymakers have focused more on reducing emissions, providing national leadership on the promotion of energy efficiency and renewables.
Mass Audubon is now asking the Legislature to provide leadership on preparedness in the face of climate change impacts like rising sea levels and increased flooding, as Massachusetts lacks an integrated approach to enhance safety, reduce risks, and protect our infrastructure.
Hurricane Sandy hitting the coast of Hull, MA. Photo credit: Aislinn Dewey
Please ask your state Representative today to cosponsor Representative Smizik’s amendment establishing a Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) in response to climate change. The amendment is to bill H.4377.
Rep. Smizik’s amendment to H.4377 would require the Commonwealth to:
- Establish sound management practices that take into account existing natural, built and economic characteristics of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable areas and human populations
- Document the preparedness and vulnerabilities in our emergency response, energy, transportation, and other systems
- Establish a regional grant program to provide financial assistance to regional planning agencies for the development and implementation of CAMP
- Establish a coastal buyback program to acquire by voluntary purchase properties severely and repeatedly damaged by weather
No costs are associated with this amendment; state operational, capital and federal funds are already available to carry out this plan.
We are on a tight time frame – the House will be voting on H.4377 and its amendments tomorrow afternoon. Please contact your Representative today and urge them to support Rep. Smizik’s climate preparedness amendment. Thank you for your advocacy!