, Newburyport, MA


September 9, 2013

Living in a super storm world


With so much carbon pollution already in the air and our traditional fossil fuel energy production and use patterns locked in, we have no choice but to live with its consequences.

Sure, we need to continue to reduce air pollution and build renewable energy projects using the sun, wind and tides. And we need to continue to increase energy efficiencies in cars, trucks, utilities and appliances; but we also need to do both: mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to them.

At its outer edges, Sandy was more than a thousand miles wide. Today, 85 percent of Massachusetts’ 6.7 million residents live within 50 miles of the coast. We are vulnerable and we need a plan — a comprehensive adaptation management plan that will show us how to lessen storm impacts to our built and natural environment and then demonstrate how to use both to protect us.

Specifically, we need a plan that assesses the vulnerability of the commonwealth’s electrical grid, buildings, roads, airports, dams, water supplies and sewage treatment plants and then recommends how to strengthen them.

We need a plan that recognizes the protective value of our beaches and wetlands, forests and rivers, and then explains how to use their natural resiliencies to buffer people from the disastrous impacts of stronger, more frequent storms.

Finally, we need a plan that identifies our most vulnerable human populations and determines how best to insulate them from the near-certain ravages of superstorms.

Last summer, President Obama said: “Those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it — they’re busy dealing with it.” It’s now time for Massachusetts to deal with it and prepare a comprehensive adaptation management plan that guides us in living with the effects and unpredictability of an ever-warming planet.


Jack Clarke is director of public policy and government relations for Mass Audubon.

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