By Sarah Boone, BARS2016
CABA’s 2016 summer campaign, Businesses Acting on Rising Seas (BARS), has reached the targeted goal of initiating a conversation with 500 businesses across coastal Massachusetts on the threats brought about by a changing climate. The campaign has taken Climate Action Business Association (CABA) outreach teams to communities throughout Boston and Cambridge, as well as nineteen towns along the Massachusetts coastline. Each business received a resilience guide consisting of eight straightforward steps a business could take to increase their resiliency.
This year, CABA’s outreach to the local small business community on climate change has received local and national recognition. In April 2016, CABA won a Greenovate Boston Award at the 10th annual ceremony for its leadership in climate action. More recently, on July 15, CABA Executive Director Michael Green received a Champion of Change for Climate Equity award from the White House.
The goal of the BARS campaign is to educate small businesses about the challenges posed to them by climate change; specifically, sea level rise. Working with Coastal Zone Management and several municipal agencies, BARS focused on high-risk communities with the highest levels of flood risk in the state, such as Boston’s North End, Gloucester, and New Bedford.
Rising seas pose a serious, yet often overlooked threat to businesses in coastal communities. Global sea levels rose gradually over the last century; however, the rate of sea level rise is increasing. Sea levels rose by 9 inches over the course of the twentieth century, but this century they are expected to rise another 8 inches by 2030 alone. If no action is taken to reduce emissions, end-of-century sea levels could be as much as 7 feet higher than they were in 2000. For reference, Copley Square in downtown Boston currently lies at just 7.5 feet above sea level. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Army Corps of Engineers project that a major storm is likely to hit the coast of Massachusetts within the next six years, potentially flooding the city with storm surges of 5 to 6 feet. Such an event would be economically devastating to the Massachusetts coastline. According to a 2013 World Bank study, Boston is the world’s eighth-most vulnerable city to financial loss because of sea level rise.
Our conversations with businesses in the vulnerable coastal regions of Massachusetts over the past several weeks have centered around this reality. Although some are aware of rising sea levels and the implications for the state of Massachusetts, most have not seriously considered how rising seas may impact their business. Out of 233 businesses who responded to our survey questions, only 40% felt climate change influenced their daily operational decisions. According to a report by the American Sustainable Business Council and Small Business Majority, 57% of small businesses nationwide lack a disaster recovery plan. Based on our in person survey, we can deduce that nearly 80% of businesses in high risk areas of coastal Massachusetts do not have an emergency plan in place. By providing business owners with resources to prepare their business for the possibility of a major storm, we are effectively mitigating potential damage to our local economy.
The BARS2016 campaign will culminate with a summary report on our findings, which will be available by mid-August. Already, the campaign has garnered three features in various media outlets: the Scituate Mariner, the Climate Minute Podcast for the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, and a podcast for Infinite Earth Radio.
Once business owners have the awareness and information to take action, the next step is political engagement. A community that is united on responding proactively to climate change has more power to enact change on the policy level. Businesses have an enormous combined potential for reducing carbon emissions, according to a report by the CDP. Businesses alone could achieve more than half the 2030 global reduction targets for the United States. Massachusetts has long been a leader on climate change. By uniting our local small business communities to take action, we are creating a more resilient economy and a model that can be used by others to do the same in their communities.