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Baker proposes $75 million for climate change preparedness

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced budget plans for 2020 for new climate adaption programs.
MIKE DESOCIO/ DFP FILE

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced plans to invest in new climate adaptation programs in the face of a changing climate Friday. They filed the administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Wednesday.  

Baker’s administration is proposing to dedicate $75 million in 2020 to prepare Massachusetts communities to withstand the changing climate.

This $75 million, if approved, would be used “for a substantial and sustained investment to protect Massachusetts’ residents, communities, economy, and infrastructure,” according to the press release.

Citing more than $600 million that has been used over the years to fight the adverse effects of climate change, Baker said in the release that this new proposal will build on past monetary aid.

“Over the last four years, we have increasingly witnessed the effects that climate change has on communities and infrastructure across the Commonwealth,” Baker said in the release. “… The investments we make today are critical to ensure cities and towns are prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.”

The money for this investment will be supported from a “modest increase in the excise on real estate transfers.” This increase is expected to amount to $137 million on an annual basis for the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund.  

David Timmons, an associate professor of economics at UMass Boston, said he has doubt in how sufficient the $75 million for climate adaptation programs in the Commonwealth will be.  

“It’s clear that Boston has much work to do to prepare for climate change,” Timmons said. “An allocation of $75 million is clearly not enough to cover the costs.”

Timmons said he doubts the $75 million will be enough because of a past proposal for a possible harbor flood protection barrier that had an estimated cost of nearly $12 billion. He said he thought the cost for this barrier makes the $75 million allocated for climate adaptation pale in comparison.  

However, he said he did acknowledge past legislation Baker’s administration has created in efforts to combat climate change, specifically a previous piece of legislation Baker signed in August 2018 that authorized more than $2.4 billion to be used for investments that would protect Massachusetts from the impacts of climate change.  

Though whether or not the currently allocated $75 million is adequate is debated, Adriana Massie, 19, of Somerville, said she thinks the reality of climate change is something that should be addressed.

“I think [Baker’s budget] is a good step,” Massie said. “At least someone is acknowledging that climate change is a thing and knows that eventually it’s going to affect us.”  

Massie said she recalled a map estimate of Boston that displayed the potential future impact of climate change on Boston, and the prediction showed that results of a changing climate may wage a severe impact later.

The map showed the effects of melting ice caps, she said, and instilled in her an urgency.

“Boston was one of the cities that’s going to get heavily impacted from flooding, so it might be later on in the future,” Massie said.

Stephen Wampole, 53, of South Boston, said he thought the $75 million does not feel adequate for Massachusetts to adapt to climate change, but said he questions if any amount is enough.

“I think staying the course would be good,” Wampole said. “I just don’t think financially it’s too doable.”  

Carolyn Sovet, 71, of Rehoboth, said while she does approve of Baker and Polito’s action regarding climate change in the state, she thinks there should be more clarity concerning what exactly will happen with the proposed funding.  

“I’d like to know exactly, exactly, what he’s going to do with the money,” Sovet said. “I’m a liberal, but I like him. … I think he gets it about climate issues.”

Damage already done to the planet will make some climate change irrevocable, she said, and no longer something to fight, but something to adapt to. However, she said the state should both fight and adapt to climate change anyway.

“We’re at a point — the damage has been done,” Sovet said. “So we have to adapt to it, but we also have to think about how to prevent any further climate change, which is going to be really hard.”

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