By Kate Galbo, Programs Manager
As we experience more extreme hot days this Spring, the impacts of climate change are growing apparent and near. Though the longer-term impacts of climate change are largely dependent on our success at curbing global greenhouse gas emissions, we have already reached some tipping points that cannot be reversed. Looking to the near-term future (between now and 2030) and beyond, we need to ensure we understand climate change impacts and what we can do to be more resilient.
This week CABA testified in support of a bill that would require the state to develop a comprehensive adaptation management plan in response to climate change. This legislation would ensure a proactive, integrated, and long-term approach to ensuring our communities, economic assets, and investments are resilient in the face of a changing climate.
The pace of relative sea level rise is accelerating. 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. By 2050 the sea level may be over as much as 1.5 feet higher than it was in 2000, and as much as 3 feet higher in 2070. Rising sea levels means higher and more powerful waves. 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 Boston with storm surges of 5 to 6 feet. Such an event would be devastating to our coastline communities’ health, infrastructure, and economy.
Weathering the storm
The climate adaptation legislation (H.2147/S.472) was filed in both the House and the Senate by Representative Frank Smizik (Brookline) and Senator Marc Pacheco (Taunton). The bill would require the Commonwealth to conduct vulnerability studies to assess the impacts of climate change on the local economy, infrastructure, resources, and public safety. The legislation also requires the state to develop an integrated action plan.
Climate adaptation is of particular importance to the small business community, whom have unique challenges when it comes to climate change impacts. Small businesses are especially vulnerable and can suffer lasting economic damage as a result of a single extreme weather event. Communication, supply, and revenue challenges associated with such storms are barriers to reopening for many businesses. For example, of the 60,000 to 100,000 small businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy, up to 30% went out of business due to the storm. The reasoning for this is simple: small businesses do not possess the human and financial capital needed to protect infrastructure required for business continuity.
Last summer CABA conducted our Businesses Acting on Rising Seas campaign in which we traveled to high-risk coastal communities across the Greater Boston area and the North and South Shores to educate Massachusetts’ small businesses on the threats of rising sea levels and extreme weather. We worked with over 500 businesses in this process and simultaneously administered a survey. The results were concerning, suggesting that 80% of the businesses we talked to are not prepared for an extreme weather event. Our Small Business Resilience Guide included simple steps businesses can take, such as developing an emergency plan or learning your insurance policy. By providing business owners with resources to prepare their business for the possibility of a major storm, we can effectively mitigate potential damage to our local economy.
While small businesses can take small steps to make their operations more resilient to climate change, the Commonwealth overall lacks an effective management strategy to deal with the varying risks of more severe storms, droughts and sea-level rise. These concerns for the business community call for a state-level approach to public policy. The legislation, which in previous sessions passed through the Massachusetts Senate four times, needs to be favorably sent out of committee and passed by both the House and Senate.
Interested in learning more about what you can do to support this legislation? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About the author: Kate Galbo joined CABA in September of 2015 after receiving a degree in Environmental Policy and Analysis from Boston University. Previously, she conducted research for Policy Studies Institute to help bridge the gap between sustainable development research and society. Kate has previously interned for other Massachusetts non-profit organizations. As Programs Manager, Kate focuses on engaging with our member businesses to take targeted policy action, achieve meaningful emissions reductions, and foster a sense of community.