October 3, 2011
Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) has released a Climate Change Adaptation Report that provides a comprehensive overview of observed and predicted changes to Massachusetts’ climate. The report also analyses the anticipated impacts of and potential adaptation strategies to prepare for climate change. William Moomaw, Director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, is a co-author of this report, which is prepared by EEA and the 34-member Climate Change Adaptation Advisory Committee. It includes a sector-by-sector look at how climate change may impact natural resources and habitat; infrastructure; human health and welfare; local economy and government; and coastal zone and oceans.
The report is organized into two parts. Part I includes an overview of the observed and predicted changes to Massachusetts’ climate and their anticipated impacts, key findings, and key adaptation strategies that cut across multiple sectors. Part II is organized into five broad areas, describing for each area the vulnerabilities to climate change and outlining adaptation strategies that could help increase resilience and preparedness.
By the end of the century, Massachusetts is set to experience a 3° to 5°C increase in average ambient temperature, with several more days of extreme heat during the summer months. Sea surface temperatures are also predicted to increase by 4°C and the sea level is expected to rise by another one foot. Massachusetts may also experience large-scale catastrophic events, similar to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (2005) and the ice storm in Massachusetts (2008).
According to the report, Climate change is expected to affect many aspects of Massachusetts’ economy and all levels of government. The report points out that while the costs of making changes and managing the built and natural environments to buffer the impacts of climate change may be substantial, the cost of inaction may be far higher. The need to perform risk and vulnerability assessments has been recognized across all sectors to determine levels of susceptibility and exposure to and impacts of climate change.
The report aims to provide guidance on how communities, businesses and governments can prepare for and respond to climate change effects. Potential approaches include conducting vulnerability assessments of public health, physical structures and assets, natural resources and economic sectors. Data collected from these assessments would inform future planning, development and management of existing and planned resources and built infrastructure.