By Anaridis Rodriguez, WBZ-TV
BOSTON (CBS) – Boston is one of more than 300 cities across 47 states choosing to adopt the goals of the Paris Accord, with or without President Trump. But this latest push is nothing new for the hub. Massachusetts has been working to become climate ready for more than a decade.
And for good reason.
“If we had a large storm in 2050, then this would be an island right here,” said Austin Blackmon, Boston’s Chief of Environment, while standing in Christopher Columbus Park.
Blackmon says the park, located in the city’s North End, is part of five waterfront neighborhoods under the threat of coastal flooding, major storms and extreme heat.
Six months ago, Blackmon’s office, in partnership with The Green Ribbon Commission, released a 400-page report. Climate Ready Boston details the consequences of the changing climate. And what researchers found could be catastrophic; reminiscent of the destruction left behind by Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey.
“If something like that were to happen in Boston; that wipes out our North End, that wipes out our Downtown Crossing that, wipes out our Financial District,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
A team of researchers mapped out what’s at risk. Climate Scientist Mathew Barlow has been studying climate change in the country’s northeast region for decades.
“There’s just a level of flooding that happens with the storm surge and the wave activity that’s the higher than Boston’s low-lying ground,” said Barlow, who teaches at UMass Lowell.
“A lot of the T, the openings to the subway tunnels, are at ground and close to ground level and a lot of those could be flooded in a major event,” added Barlow. “There would be communication problems, there would be sanitation problems, and the electrical grid could well fail.”
The city’s latest outlook indicates sea levels will rise a foot-and-a-half in the next three decades. Levels could be three feet higher by the turn of the century. And in the event of a major storm, up to six feet of water can rush into the city. That would mean $20 billion worth of real estate and the homes of at least 16,000 people could end up inundated. Blackmon says the city is now taking the data and putting engineers to work.
“By coming up with conceptual designs for flood protections. Whether it’s in East Boston, in Charlestown, in South Boston, to give us an understanding of what the cost would be and how feasible they would be,” Blackmon said of the design drafts expected to be released early next year.
Blackmon’s office is training residents to understand the information and share it with the community in neighborhood sessions.