(See the major update at the bottom of this post as well.)
(On “Less Science and More Social Science” at And Then There’s Physics)
And Then There’s Physics is one of my favorite blogs discussing climate disruption and related policy (in my climate blogroll, for instance). There was a recent post regarding another post by a science blogger called Stoat (one William Connolley) on the limitations of science for dictating mitigation and adaptation policy. Read there for context.
But along the way, a Commentor, mt at 13th August 2016 at 6:25 p.m. where mt, cited the 1979 `Charney Commission report’, suggests science can and has done little more, even with the IPCC. I composed a Comment which suggested at least one city, Boston, was trying to enlist science in its detailed response and planning.
That Comment apparently did not make it through moderation at ATTP, or got lost through a technical glitch, as sometimes happens. I worked on it a bit, so am reproducing it here instead. (As can be seen by the Comment below, apparently there was a technical glitch, and that Comment has now been posted.)
Well, the City of Boston is engaged in a pretty deliberate process to ascertain climate impacts, what should City policy and planning dictate, especially with respect to sea level rise and storm surge, and needed investments. It is informed by science, and climate projections for Boston, followed by three additional reports, an Integrated Vulnerability Assessment, a detailing of Resilience Strategies, and a Final Report and Implementation Roadmap. The last three appear to be late, but there is a hard stop of sorts in the form of a Climate Vulnerabilities & Solutions Symposium on the 15th of September, which I am attending.
Attendees will include representatives from local financial firms, banks, insurers and re-insurers, as well as businesses, utilities, real estate people, government people, NGOs and attorneys. There already was a presentation of the Climate Projections Consensus at which there were many representatives of these stakeholders.
Come September, it will be interesting to see how these groups think about the problem, and where they are landing in terms of a mix of the three basic choices,
- wait-and-see, with willingness to take on and deal with damage as it comes,
- makes some preparations, but basically remain-in-place, or
- preparare to abandon the present location of the City, and begin preparations to assess where to go.
This is in part because:
- major bankers have been thinking about this (see also), and
- Boston has been thinking about this. I also attended the program at HUCE during HUBweek, and found Robert Young’s comments particularly compelling. This was part of a larger and longer discussion including the possibilities of moving the City.
The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.
It should be noted as well that the City of Boston has volunteered itself to host a United States-China Climate Summit in 2017. Whether that applies additional pressure, as I suspect, or gives the City cover for delay and greenwashing is anyone’s guess. We’ll see in September.
It might be slightly premature, but it seems, as of today, that the answer to the rhetorical question posed in the headline-title of this post is “No”, the City of Boston does not know or want to adapt to climate change, including sea level rise.
The basis for my conclusions is the recent history of Climate Ready Boston reports:
- Spring 2016, “Climate Projections Consensus” (in hand and available)
- Coming, Summer 2016, “Integrated Vulnerability Assessment: Assessing the potential impacts of climate change on Boston’s buildings, infrastructure, environmental systems, and communities” (missing in action)
- Coming, Summer 2016, “Resilience Strategies: Developing preliminary ideas for projects, policies, and programs to help Boston’s neighborhoods and infrastructure respond to climate change and become more resilient” (missing in action)
- Coming, Summer 2016, “Final Report And Implementation Roadmap: Pulling the findings and initiatives together with a roadmap to address major vulnerabilities” (missing in action)
There is a 5.5 hour “symposium” scheduled for 15th September 2016 titled the “Boston’s Climate Vulnerabilities & Solutions Symposium, long planned. Presumably these reports were to be completed in order to be able to inform this symposium. Instead, the agenda for the symposium consists of:
- Opening remarks
- An overview of Climate Ready Boston
- Resilience Interventions In Boston: Existing Buildings, New Construction & District Solutions. This includes the following speakers and panel members:
- John Cleveland, Director, Boston Green Ribbon Commission
- John Messervy, Director of Capital & Facility Planning, Partners Healthcare
- Ben Myers, Sustainability Manager, Boston Properties
- Jeff Wechsler, Marketing Director-Acquisitions, Tishman Speyer
- Refreshments & Vendor Expo
- Financing And Policy Solutions For Resilience. This includes the following speakers and panel members:
- Michael E. Mooney, Chairman, Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP
- Rebecca Davis, Deputy Director, MAPC
- John Markowitz, Vice President – Infrastructure Finance, MassDevelopment
- Sara Myerson, Director of Planning, BRA
- Closing Remarks, by Austin Blackmon, Chief of Environment, Energy & Open Space, City of Boston
- No major political figures
- No representatives from large financial firms, or insurance firms. The financial district is located a block or two from the Atlantic Avenue Wharf, and is more or less downhill from it
- No local property owners from Atlantic Avenue, people who were in attendance at a HUCE presentation and panel discussion on getting Boston ready for climate change. That meeting included discussions of planning to move the City.
I can only speculate why this process is deflating. Even at the time of the HUCE meeting, it was clear Boston was not taking measures for preparedness as much as, say, the City of Cambridge is. Of the three possible responses to sea-level rise, in the absence of any other statement, Boston has made a commitment to wait-and-see and remaining-in-place. Unfortunately, this also means that commercial and other development along the Boston waterfront will continue as if nothing is going to happen.
I have cancelled my registration for the symposium and will, instead, be attending the 2016 Cleantech Energy Storage Finance Forum that evening.