Category Archives: Climate

Climate Action in Times of Social Distancing

We all know what it’s like to be stuck at home, socially distancing during COVID-19. There are only so many times you can binge your favorite show on Netflix or read your favorite book before you might start to feel a bit disconnected from the world.

If you’re feeling like this, we have good news. One of the ways Mass Audubon is celebrating Earth Day, April 22, COVID-19 edition, is by participating as a team in the month-long 2020 Drawdown Ecochallenge. The Drawdown Ecochallenge is a global competition that consists of a set of actions aimed at tackling our collective climate footprint to fight climate change.

With a dash of friendly competition, this Ecochallenge allows you to select certain actions, ranging in difficulty and frequency, that will help reduce the amount of carbon you emit. Each action you take contributes points towards the Mass Audubon team and allows you to gauge your impact real-time throughout the challenge.

The Ecochallenge allows us to still come together digitally as a community and stay connected with what’s happening to the environment around us. With plenty of actions we can complete while socially distancing, the Ecochallenge is just one of the ways we can celebrate Earth Week while keeping our communities safe and healthy.

Whether it’s taking a much needed, daily walk to check out the infrastructure of your neighborhood or doing some research on what makes seafood sustainable, the Drawdown Ecochallenge can bring us together to celebrate Earth Day’s 2020 theme, Climate Action, as a digital community and keep engaging with our environment in safe ways.

The challenge begins on April 1 and lasts until the end of the month, April 30. Join Mass Audubon’s team and get ready to tackle climate change together! Tag @MassAudubon in your #Ecochallenge photos for a chance to be shared on our social media platforms.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon

2020: A Call for Climate Advocates

A new year marks a time for reflection and goal setting. What have we accomplished? What does the future hold? When it comes to the climate crisis, those questions invite some concerning responses.  

We know the last decade alone included eight of the 10 warmest years since measurements began. Hurricanes, wildfires, and extreme flooding have contributed to extraordinary economic loss, not to mention a devastating loss of human and ecological life.  

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told us that we have a limited amount of time to right the ship. All of this while the current Federal administration has completed rollbacks of almost 60 environmental regulations, with dozens more under attack.  

But, we also saw some real progress on climate change in the past decade.  

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon
Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon

The Paris Agreement was drafted and signed by almost every country on Earth. Solar energy production increased by about 900 percent between 2010 and 2018 and wind energy is estimated to have tripled. We also witnessed an unprecedented number of youth-led climate strikes, calling on our global leaders to treat the climate crisis as just that — a crisis.  

We ended the decade with higher public acknowledgement of the fact that the planet is warming. Now, it is time for us to turn that knowledge into action. One way to do that is by reducing our transportation emissions – a significant contributor to our warming planet. 

The Transportation Climate Initiative  

The transportation sector is currently responsible for more than 40% of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts and the soot and smog from cars and trucks are major contributors to lung disease and other health problems across the region.  

In order to reduce transportation emissions Massachusetts is joining 12 states and Washington D.C., proposing something called The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI). This ambitious regional initiative can combat climate change by reducing carbon emissions and investing in sustainable transportation infrastructure.  

 TCI could drastically change the face of transportation throughout the region by: 

  • developing the clean energy economy 
  • reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector
  • increasing sustainable transportation options 

TCI takes a “cap-and-invest” approach to addressing climate change. It requires local fuel suppliers to purchase allowances for every ton of carbon their fuel would emit when burned. This emissions cap would be brought down over time. The sale of allowances could generate up to $500 million a year for Massachusetts, which would be used to develop cleaner and more efficient transportation options.  

Speak Up for Climate Action  

If we have learned anything from the past decade, it is that we must advocate for climate action with courage, honesty, and urgency like we have never done before. TCI is one of several milestone decisions coming in front of our state and federal legislators in the coming year, and we need you to use your voice and share your support.   

TCI leaders released a draft agreement known as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and it is open for public comment. Let decision makers know you are excited to see a high-impact, regional approach to tackling carbon emissions moving forward. Submit comments by February 27, 2020.  

Make no mistake, history books will look back on the 2010s as the decade when the climate crisis became real, tangible, and undoubtedly urgent. How will they describe the 2020s? It’s on us to decide.  

Veggies

Climate Change: It’s In What You Eat

The food we eat, where it comes from, and what we do with it when we are finished can have a significant impact on an individual’s carbon footprint. According to the USDA, 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States come from agriculture, but this statistic does not tell the whole story of how our food chain impacts climate change.

Mixed veggies

As our food travels from farms to our tables, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are released every step of the way. You can take some simple steps to help fight climate change simply by the food decisions you make.

Eat Less Meat and Dairy

According to a recent study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, transitioning to a plant-based diet is significantly beneficial for the climate. Dietary changes could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by eight billion tons per year and free up millions of square kilometers of land.

Animal products, such as meat and dairy, contribute to over 80% of total GHG emissions from food consumption, compared to less than 5% from vegetables, fruits or grains. Eating one vegetarian meal per week could save the equivalent of driving over 1,000 miles.  

Look For Food with Fewer Food Miles Attached

Because our modern food chain is globalized, you may find apples from New Zealand and avocados from Mexico in your local supermarket. It is important to consider the carbon footprint of transportation because transportation accounts for 29% of total GHG emissions in the U.S, which is the highest out of any sector. The transportation of food is responsible for 14% of the energy used by the U.S. food system.

To reduce the miles your food travels, try shopping for locally grown and seasonal foods. Visit farmers markets and co-ops, or check labels at the grocery store and opt for domestically grown produce. Our own Drumlin Farm and Moose Hill CSA’s are a great place to start your local food journey.

Buy Less and Buy Strategically

At the end of the food system is food waste, which consumers and food distributors play a major role in. According to the EPA, 31% of the food in the United States is wasted every year, equaling 133 billion pounds of food waste. This contributes to climate change because organic waste in landfill generates methane emissions. The EPA is calling for a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030 due to the impact that food waste emissions have on climate change.

Consumers can shop more responsibly to reduce food waste. Try planning your meals ahead of time to avoid buying too much food, and keep an eye on expiration dates. You can keep your food scraps out of landfills by starting a backyard compost pile or bringing your food waste to a community compost site. See our Compost for the Climate blog post for more information.

Pledge To Be a Sustainable Food Consumer

Ready to take action for your health and the health of our planet? Pledge to become a sustainable food consumer and encourage others in your life to do the same. If you’re already vegan or a vegetarian, help create change in your school or workplace by instituting meatless Mondays and encouraging your community to institute sustainable food options at work or community events.

“I pledge to be a sustainable food consumer by reducing the amount of meat and dairy in my diet and encouraging others to do the same. Whenever possible, I will shop locally for my food and will support local farmers and producers.”

Sign the pledge >

Greta Thunberg

Leading By Greta’s Example

If you’ve been following the news about the youth-led climate strikes, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about, and been inspired by, Greta Thunberg. This 16-year-old from Sweden has galvanized millions worldwide to speak out about the climate crisis and demanded that world leaders take meaningful action on this urgent issue.

Greta Thunberg in NatureNow
Greta Thunberg in NatureNow.

At her most recent speech at the UN Climate Action Summit, she said so poignantly : “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be at school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you come to us young people for hope. How dare you.”

If you have five minutes, watch her speech. But it was her NatureNow video that so clearly told us what we need to do to stop the climate crisis. And the three main actions she calls out are what Mass Audubon has been doing for decades.

Protect

As the largest private landowner in Massachusetts with more than 38,000 acres protected, we know how critical land conservation and effective land management is in the age of climate change. We actively protect new land that stores carbon, enhances coastal resiliency, and connects wildlife corridors.

Restore

Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary, in Plymouth, demonstrates the importance of restoring land to its natural state. Once a working cranberry farm, this landscape underwent the largest freshwater ecological restoration ever completed in the Northeast. As a result, Tidmarsh is now on a dramatic change curve—a spectacle that will play out for decades to come. 

Fund

With the help of our members and supporters, we jump at opportunities to protect these critical landscapes. Recently, we had just a few weeks to raise $2.6 million to save 110 acres of ecologically important habitat in Wareham–and it was people like you who stepped up to donate the funds to acquire the land.

Greta’s voice brings clarity and urgency to the issue of climate change like few others have been able to do. At Mass Audubon, we also feel that sense of urgency to respond with solutions that protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife.  

Learn more about our Climate Change efforts, join our climate action group on Facebook, and support our work.

Staff at Strike

Take 5: Youth Climate Strike

Friday’s Youth Climate Strike was beyond inspiring. Reports estimate that about 4 million people participated in the strikes worldwide. Staff from Mass Audubon participated in strikes in Boston, Worcester, Northampton, Wellesley, Lexington, Providence, Martha’s Vineyard, and more. Check out five photos from the strike and see more on our Instagram story.

Mass Audubon staff at Boston City Hall Plaza.
Alexandra Vecchio, Mass Audubon's Climate Change Program Manager at the Mass Audubon table.
Alexandra Vecchio, Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Program Manager at the Mass Audubon table.
Broadmoor Staff
Broadmoor’s team at the Wellesley Strike
The future is in your hands sign
Strikers in Worcester
Strike at State House
The March ended at the State House
Mass Audubon Supports Youth Climate Strike

Stand With Youth Climate Strikers

On September 20, Mass Audubon will stand with millions of people of all ages around the world to amplify the voice of youth activists who understand the urgency of climate change.  

We have partnered with Youth Climate Strike Massachusetts to share our support and stand in solidarity with youth and adults who are walking out of their classes, jobs, and homes to demand our leaders take action on defining issue of our time–climate change.  

Mass Audubon supports the Youth Climate Strike

The Science is Clear 

Climate change is harming natural and human communities like never before. From hotter days to stronger storms to rising seas, we see the impacts all around us. This reality has driven youth activists to take to the streets for more than a year, demanding action for the future of their planet. 

Now, youth organizers are not just welcoming but urging adults to participate side-by-side with them. The strike kicks off a week of actions to elevate the need for implementing bold and urgent climate solutions.  

→ September 20-27: Climate Strikes are taking place across the globe including in Boston (9/20), Northampton (9/20), and Worcester (9/27).

→ September 21: Young leaders from around the world are convening to showcase climate solutions and engage with global leaders on climate change. All of this precedes the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City  

→ September 23: Global leaders are meeting as part of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City  to boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  

If Not Us, Then Who? If Not now, Then When?  

We know that we have the solutions needed to create a healthier, safer, and more equitable planet for all species. What we need now is to come together and use our collective power to make those solutions heard and ultimately supported.

  • Find a climate strike near you and join us on September 20. Then, ask three friends or family members to join you as well.  
  • If you’re striking in Boston, look for the Mass Audubon table at City Hall Plaza.
  • Unable to miss work? Check out these suggestions from youth organizers on how you can offer support from your workplace.  
  • Talk about climate change and the strike with family, friends, and coworkers. And remember to be an adult ally in every climate conversation you have. Lead by example for other parents, adults, and even teachers.  

The moment to show up for nature and the future of all young people is now. 

Will you be standing and striking? If so, share where in the comments.

Green Your Transportation

In recent years, the transportation sector has surpassed power plants as the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the US. The low cost of fuel, American’s desire for bigger vehicles, and continued sprawling development that requires more individuals rely on automobiles to move around has driven a steady uptick in vehicle emissions.

This makes the transition to an electric or hybrid vehicle one of the more effective things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. If you’re among the 83% of Americans who drive regularly, it’s now easier than ever to switch to electric and hybrid vehicles that emit roughly a quarter as much CO2 as gasoline powered vehicles.

Electric Vehicle Charging via Noya Fields
Plugged In Electric Vehicle Charging via Noya Fields/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Why make the change?

Unlike traditional vehicles, electric vehicles do not release any exhaust emissions when driven. This means that they not only reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, they also eliminate dangerous air pollution that causes smog and other health and ecological risks.

Even better, drivers can cut their emissions down to zero by charging electric or hybrid vehicles through renewable energy such as solar, wind, or hydropower. That’s why Mass Audubon now provides electric vehicle charging stations at many of our sanctuaries across the state, all powered by renewable sources. It’s also why we support An Act to Secure a Clean Energy Future, which sets zero-emissions standards for state-owned or leased vehicles.

Beyond helping save the planet, a greener vehicle can save your wallet as well. On average in the US, the cost of fueling your car with electricity is less than half the cost of fueling your car with gasoline. (You can even charge your car for free at the Habitat Education Center & Wildlife Sanctuary or Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary.)

Electric vehicles are also more reliable and cheaper to maintain than traditional vehicles. If that’s not reason enough, when you purchase a new electric vehicle you can receive up to a $7,500 tax credit from the federal government, and for those purchasing before September 30, 2019,  an additional $1,500 rebate from the state of Massachusetts.

How else can I help?

Not everyone can switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle today, but fortunately there is still much you can do to fight climate change during your daily travels. Carpooling or taking public transit instead of driving even a few times a month can reduce your carbon footprint. Walking or biking shorter distances when possible can help to eliminate it entirely.

Working from home once or twice a week can also go a long way towards a greener future, with telecommuters in 2017 preventing 3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere. If you do use a traditional car, properly inflating your tires, driving slower, and avoiding idling can save on both emissions and expenditure at the gas pump.

Pledge to Green Your Transportation

Ready to be a climate hero? Take the Green Transportation Pledge.

“I pledge to do any (or all) of the following:

  • Upgrade to an electric or hybrid vehicle.
  • Advocate for the adoption of green vehicles in my school, work, or community
  • Ask your state legislator to support An Act to Secure a Clean Energy Future and advance a crucial clean energy bill in the State House.
  • Reduce my footprint by carpooling, biking, walking, or working from home.”

Take the Pledge >

— Taylor Wurts

The Role of Land Conservation in Fighting Climate Change

The climate crisis often evokes images of coal-burning power plants, oil rigs drilling for fossil fuels, and congested roadways filled with gas-guzzling vehicles.

But what about the land that surrounds us?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has told us that we are in the fight of our lives to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Land plays an important role in the climate system and is already under growing pressure from human impacts.

In their most recent special report, scientists describe how agriculture, deforestation, desertification and other human activities have altered 70% of the land on the Earth’s surface. Not only are these changes contributing to a warming climate, they are also reducing the ability of forests and other natural systems to store greenhouse gases that drive climate change.  

And, to make matters worse, climate change exacerbates land degradation through increases in extreme weather, rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and intensity, heat stress, wind, and sea-level rise. Science tells us these natural hazards will continue to impact our land, people’s health, and our economies.

The IPCC report calls out some key land use recommendations for policymakers to consider in the near term in order to maintain land productivity, increase food security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including:

  • Reduce deforestation and forest degradation
  • Increase the use of sustainable farming techniques
  • Decrease reliance on meat-based diets 
  • Strengthen indigenous land ownership rights
  • Eliminate food waste

Most importantly, the report highlights that scientists, policymakers, and land managers know enough about these recommendations and their impact on our climate that the time to act and create meaningful change is now.

So, what can we do?

At Mass Audubon, our land conservation strategy is directly linked to climate change mitigation and adaptation. As the largest private land owner in Massachusetts with more than 38,000 acres protected, we know how critical land conservation and effective land management is in the age of climate change.

Our recent entry in the California Air Resources Board (CARB) carbon offset market ensures that 10,000 acres of forested land will be protected for the next 100 years, ensuring the carbon stored in this critical landscape remains there.

At our Drumlin Farm and Moose Hill wildlife sanctuaries, we practice community-based sustainable farming because of our deep commitment to the people, land, water, and air that enable our food system to thrive.

And, throughout our advocacy work at the state and local levels, we continue to advocate for the protection of forests, farmlands, and critical wildlife habitat. 

You can be part of our land conservation efforts by protecting land in your community and supporting our efforts to address climate change through effective land protection, advocacy, education, and more.  In your own life, you can reduce your carbon footprint by eating less meat, reducing your food waste, and supporting local, sustainable farmers when you shop.

A Wake-Up Call

This new report is yet another bold wake-up call that we must act now to address the consequences of climate change–many of which we are already seeing today and will only increase in severity in the coming decades.

But, we must also remember that this is not all doom and gloom. As conservationists and land managers, we know the solutions are deeply embedded within our work. It is on all of us to answer this call to action with even more tenacity and urgency than ever before.  

The Impacts of Climate Change on Shellfish

For many, summertime in New England means fried clams, oysters on the half shell, and lobster rolls. Unfortunately, the increasing threat of climate change means these delicacies may be harder to come by.

In fact clams, mussels, and other shellfish have seen a drastic decline in their populations. Since 1980, shellfish harvest throughout New England has dropped by 85 percent, causing negative impacts to both the environment and the New England shellfish industry.

"2010-07-15_0027" by kapchurus is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“2010-07-15_0027” by kapchurus is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

It’s All About Chemistry

By now you probably know that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) due to the burning of fossil fuels is driving climate change. What you may not realize is that it’s also changing our ocean’s chemistry, driving a phenomenon known as Ocean Acidification.

Oceans absorb roughly 30% of the CO2 that is released in the atmosphere. While this may seem like a good thing, there’s a catch: when carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater a series of chemical reactions occur, reducing the pH and causing the seawater to become more acidic.

In turn, this increased acidity reduces the abundance of carbonate ions. Shellfish need carbonate to build their shells. Without it, clams, mussels, and oysters are having a harder time building and repairing their shells. This results in a shorter lifespans and weaker shellfish larvae.

Without Shellfish, Problems Arise

It’s not just missing out on the annual clambake. A loss of shellfish will lead to several serious issues.

An increase of dead zones.

In the absence of filter-feeding shellfish, nutrients start to build-up resulting in an event known as Eutrophication. This begins with the rapid introduction of nutrients to an area, whether that be through fertilizer runoff or the release of waste. Normally shellfish would filter out these nutrients. Without shellfish, algae and bacteria thrive, absorbing the nutrients along with oxygen in the water. No oxygen will lead to a die off of fish and many other aquatic organisms, resulting in a “dead zone.”

The food web will collapse.

Shellfish are considered a keystone species, organisms that an ecosystem depends on in order to function. When shellfish populations decrease, the food web begins to collapse. Species such as the Atlantic cod, salmon, pollock, squid, and coastal waterbirds will lose a primary food source, decimating their populations as well. 

The economy will suffer.

The loss of these species will threaten thousands of New Englanders who rely on shellfish for their livelihoods. With the value of the New England shellfish industry totaling $440 million a year, Massachusetts cannot afford to lose this precious supply.

Keep Oceans Safe for Shellfish

The best way to protect shellfish populations and all the people and organisms that rely on them is to reduce your own carbon footprint. Some ways to do that can be:

By doing any or all of these changes, you will make a huge impact, for people and shellfish.

– Post by Jonathan Dong

Boston Skyline copyright Yu-Jen Shih / FlickrCC

Why Cities are More Vulnerable to Climate Change

Boston © Yu-Jen Shih/Via Flickr CC
Boston © Yu-Jen Shih/Via Flickr CC

There is a good chance you know someone who lives in a city or you live in one yourself.

According to the United Nations, 55% of the world lives in cities and by 2050 that number will change to an estimated 68% of the world population. People throughout our planet are increasingly moving from rural to urban centers, making for larger cities with greater population density than ever before.

Everything from our coastlines to the health of people who live and work in cities is vulnerable to impacts of climate change. As global temperatures continue to rise, our urban infrastructure and residents will become even more at risk.

And while so many people in one place means more environmental stressors, more people also leads to greater people power to create green solutions. Here’s a look at some challenges cities face and solutions that are making a difference.

Rising Temperatures

Temperatures are rising and cities are feeling that heat to a higher degree then their rural counterparts. Why? Look no further then the Urban Heat Island Effect for the answer.

Dark objects like asphalt, sidewalks, and rooftops absorb a lot of heat, which in return raises surface temperature. These types of objects cause the city to “become its own heat island,” which traps hot air from naturally circulating out long after the sun has gone down.

During very hot summer days, consumers require more electricity to cool their homes, particularly in hot, urban areas that lack nature to keep them cool. During “peak hours” when electric demand is highest, the state’s energy grid operators are forced to use additional dirty fossil fuels in an effort to meet the extra demand. These “peaker plants” are generally the dirtiest and most expensive energy sources, charging for oil and gas at extremely high rates

Through programs like Greening the Gateway Cities, the state is working to reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect by increasing tree canopy cover in urban residential Gateway Cities. The tree canopy reflects heat that would otherwise cause residents to use more electricity to cool down their homes.

Coastal Storms & Flooding

In Massachusetts, 85% of residents live within 50 miles of the coastline, which means most Massachusetts residents are at risk of flooding from rising sea levels and powerful storms driven by climate change.

New England’s largest city, Boston, is located right on the coast. In response to the powerful Nor’easters like the ones in March 2018 becoming more common, Boston has developed the Resilient Boston Harbor Plan. This goal of this plan is to protect neighborhoods from sea level rise and flooding.

High Energy Footprint

As hubs for people to live and work, as well as large drivers of economic activity, cities tend to require more energy to function. According to C40 Cities, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change, cities consume two-thirds of the world’s energy, accounting for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions but only occupy 2% of the world’s landmass.

Despite these large energy footprints, cities have also shown great leadership on energy reduction goals. Earlier this year, Boston announced an ambitious goal to be 100% carbon free by 2050. The Carbon Free Boston Report outlines the strategies necessary to achieve this goal including:

  • Deepening energy efficiency while reducing demand
  • Shifting to an all electric system that does not source its energy from fossil fuels
  • Purchasing 100% clean energy

Good News for Massachusetts Cities

Massachusetts is considered a national leader in addressing the threat of climate change and proactively preparing for its impacts. The State is providing support for cities and towns in Massachusetts to begin the process of planning for climate change resiliency and implementing priority projects to protect people, infrastructure, and the environment through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program (MVP).

You Can Lead the Way, Whether You Live in a City or Not

We know that change starts at the local level, which means each of us must use our voices to ensure our cities are taking action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the current and future impacts of climate change.

This change can start at your own home as long as you have the right information. We can usually predict when peak events will occur a few days in advance, so if we plan accordingly, consumers can reduce their reliance on the dirtiest and most expensive power generators. The Green Energy Consumers Alliance issues “Shave the Peak” alerts that will remind you to use less electricity when it matters most.

Pledge today to sign up for “Shave the Peak” alerts to help clean up the New England power system and advocate for forward-thinking policies that can transform our electric grid.

— Post by Adonis Logan