City, News

Boston climate experts plan for rising sea level

Thousands of protestors attended the People’s Climate March in New York City in September to highlight the ongoing issue of climate change faced by today’s society. PHOTO BY SARAH FISHER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Thousands of protestors attended the People’s Climate March in New York City in September to highlight the ongoing issue of climate change faced by today’s society. PHOTO BY SARAH FISHER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The effects of climate change are soon to hit home in Boston, prompting the local division of the Urban Land Institute to prepare for rising sea levels in Boston and to form creative solutions to keep areas of the city protected from flooding, according to a ULI report released Tuesday.

The sea level could rise up to six feet by 2100, meaning an excess of water could reach Back Bay before the end of the century unless proper preventative and protective measures are taken, the report stated.

“The realities of climate change and associated sea level rise and natural hazards have become increasingly clear,” said Brian Swett, Boston’s chief of environment, energy and open space, in the report. “The city and private sector need to make sure that our current and future buildings and infrastructure are prepared.”

Boston was ranked the “eighth most vulnerable city in the world in terms of overall cost of damage,” the report stated. It also projected Boston’s cost to combat climate change running a tab of more than $1 trillion by 2020.

“In February of 2013, it [the City] launched the Climate Ready Boston initiative, which built on the work of The Boston Harbor Association, and they have been doing a very deep dive on vulnerability of the city,” said report contributor Dennis Carlberg, director of [email protected]

With the effects of climate change on the horizon, Bostonians can expect to see more days over 90 degrees, more frequent storms, higher winds and issues with resource availability, Carlberg said.

“To prevent the climate change, we all need to reduce the amount of energy we use,” he said. “It gets to the core of our whole sustainability effort, [which is] reducing energy consumption. If we reduce energy consumption, we reduce our green house gas emissions, and that reduces the problem we have to deal with a hundred years from now.”

The report offers solutions to climate change such as development of new public policy, the addition of planted or porous surfaces to absorb an influx of water and an urban system of canals.

The ULI report also outlines an “incremental, phased approach” of changing Back Bay’s infrastructure, which, in the midst of changes in the sea level, poses challenges and risks to public health.

Along with the flooding, Boston residents may experience other effects of climate change such as storm-based destruction caused by extreme waves, damaging the Boston area both physically and financially, said Adrien Finzi, College of Arts and Sciences professor of biology.

“Boston is obviously not the only city being affected by this global change,” he said. “There are two pieces to it. One is sea levels rise because of direct water inputs from melting ice and glaciers. The second bit is that, as you increase the temperature of water, its density decreases, so the volume gets larger.”

Several residents said the threats of climate change are concerning, and they hope the City begins to take preventative measures to combat the issue.

Chantae Powell, 24, of Roxbury, said residents need to stay updated on climate change issues and begin to consider what preventative measures should be taken.

“You probably never think water’s going to reach that high of a level, so it’s shocking,” she said. “I don’t even know what they could do to prevent it. You could build a wall, but if the water grows higher, it could overcome the wall. What could you really do about it?”

Bri Cervantes, 20, of Allston, said climate change could be slowed if the fossil fuel industry lessens its influence on energy consumption.

“Climate change is happening, and we can’t stop it. We’re at the point of no return,” she said. “It would be great if everyone was environmentally minded and took precautions…things that normal people do to not consume so much energy with fossil fuels, not produce so much waste, to just be environmentally minded.”


  1. With 60 BILLION food animals on the planet, this should be our first step in the Climate March! The best chance to mitigate climate change is to severely reduce consumption of animal foods. More than 1/3 of human induced warming is attributable to animal agriculture. Methane is 24 times more potent than CO2 but takes only 7 years to cycle out of the atmosphere. CO2 takes around 100 years to come out. Human pursuit of animal protein is the leading cause of methane release and a primary cause of CO2 concentrating in the atmosphere. Check the facts and act!

    Methane vs. Carbon Dioxide: A Greenhouse Gas Showdown

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

    “A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy.” ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

    Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet

  2. I hope they take up some sort plan and soon. I’d hate see Boston to flood away. Action needs start to happen now.

  3. Catherine Morehouse reports, “The sea level could rise up to six feet by 2100.” Simple arithmetic tells us that would require an average rise in sea level of over 21 mm/yr.

    The Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level which has tide gauge records from around the world tells us that sea level at the Boston gauge has for the last 30 years gone up at 4.7 mm/yr. The highest rate over a 30 year period was 5.2 mm/yr ending in 1954 and the lowest was 1.0 mm/yr ending in 1995. The Boston gauge has records going back to 1921.

    Colorado University’s Sea Level Research Group keeps the satellite record of sea level rise and tells us that from 1993 through 2003 the rate was 3.5 mm/yr and for the last ten years the rate is 2.9 mm/yr.

    Anyone with some curiosity and modest Excel spreadsheet ability can verify those numbers.

    Steve Case – Milwaukee, WI

  4. “The sea level could rise up to six feet by 2100…” Are you insane? Where do you come up with this lunacy? I haven’t seen one prediction of anything like that, even among the craziest, anti-science cult believers. Look, there’s been no warming for almost 20 years. The earth has always changed, and so has its climate. You cannot control it. Even Al Gore admitted as much by selling his TV station for a sack of oil money. Let’s focus on real environmental threats, not this silliness and scaremongering. Six feet! Seriously, it’s almost as bad as these idiotic ads showing the Statue of Liberty — which is 300 feet tall — under water!

  5. here’s something to add to the discussion…time for cooler heads to prevail in this SLR discussion…
    all taking place on the North Shore ( Lynn Harbor )…and relevant around the world…