Cambridge, MA to hold a public hearing on “Climate Change Vulnerability”

The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts is to hold a public hearing on “Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment.” The Director the the Sustainability and Environment Program (SEM) of Harvard’s Extension School is a member of the “Expert Advisory Panel” to the group that his holding this event, as is the head of Harvard University’s Environment Program. This is an important moment for the collaboration of citizens and scientists on the most pressing problem confronting the human community in the coming years, decades and centuries.

Interested Boston and Cambridge citizens may wish to view the maps in detail that are currently being used to project possible flooding events as sea level continues to rise in New England:


Coastal cities around the world — particularly in Asia and the Pacific — have been battered by extreme weather. In China itself has had to organize mass evacuations (BBC News Typhoon Fitow hits eastern China after mass evacuation), and flooding has been a serious and growing problem for riverside cities.(China Flood). We could no doubt learn a lot from the Chinese about how to mobilize masses of people quickly to respond to an environmental catastrophe.

A series of studies have been done on Boston over the years (see links below), and recently,  Jane Murray Wolff, a graduate student at the Harvard Extension School, has completed an important synthesis study entitled:


Jane Murray Wolff

In more general terms, there is a wide-scale recognition, now that new kinds of thinking and planning are required to meet the challenge we face as a human community. By way of background to tomorrow’s meeting you may want to view the recent program presented on Cambridge Community Television on the topic.

This is a very general background piece about the importance of public discussion, planning and foresight. But I expect people in tomorrow’s meeting will provide a great deal more detail. Actually, it is quite exceptional and very fortunate that Cambridge is taking the lead on getting citizens involved in this process well before there is a tragedy on the scale of Katrina or Sandy. It is for this reason that it is particularly important for everyone who can to attend. If you know of others who should be alerted to this, please pass on the information and invite them personally to go along with you.

After tropical storm Sandy hit New Jersey and New York, a number of east coast cities began to focus on what was needed to envision how to plan for these increasingly likely extreme weather events. Mayor Bloomberg drew up an ambitious plan for addressing the problem in NYC. See: “A Stronger, More Resilient New York”. Similarly, just before leaving office, Tom Maninno along with the Boston Harbor Association drew up a plan for Boston, entitled: Preparing for the Rising Tide. In Cambridge itself there has been a very active environment contingent in City Hall which long ago engaged in Climate Change Planning. It is this group that is launching the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment effort.

It is rare for a city government anywhere in the country to take this kind of initiative, and this throws the responsibility squarely on the citizens to take the challenge to become involved. Climate change is far too important an issue to be left to the “experts.” Furthermore, as the EJ movement has proved time and again, the real “experts” about the impact of climate are those who going to suffer its most grievous consequences. So, it is best to get involved in this rare and important opportunity

The Cambridge Climate Research Associates (CCRA) has made a further list of sources available over this period for you to understand the background to this evening’s meeting… Here are some of the key links — arranged in rough chronological order from 2005 to 2013.

Paul H. Kirshen, William P Anderson, Matthais Ruth,
2005 Climate’s Long-term Impacts on Metro Boston (CLIMB) | Summary
Full Report:

Study of Potential Impact of Global Climate Change on Boston, WBUR, 15 February 2005


YouTube – natienvirotrust
2006 “Global Warming Causes Rising Sea-Levels and Boston Flooding,” YouTube – natienvirotrust, (5 December 2006).


Applied Science Associates
2007 “ASA Flood Modeling Supports Boston Globe Climate Change Feature,” Applied Science Associates/The Boston Globe, (April 2007).


Kirshen, Paul, Kelly Knee, and Matthias Ruth
2008 “Climate change and coastal flooding in Metro Boston: impacts and adaptation strategies,” Climatic Change, 90 (4), (October 2008) 453.


Envisioning Our Coastal Future: NYC, Boston, Cambridge and Beyond, Pt. 1
– [No longer available online
DVD only]

Envisioning Our Coastal Future: NYC, Boston, Cambridge and Beyond, Pt. 2
– [No longer available online
DVD only]

Bennett, Drake
2010 “Defending Boston from the sea,” The Boston Globe`, (6 June 2010).

2010 “Looking Out: Global Warming Tops Harbor Challenges,” WBUR, (26 August 2010).

Reviewing Boston by the Sea – [No longer available online – DVD


Ireland, Corydon
2011 “Rising Seas, Imperiled Cities,” Environment@Harvard, (December 2011).


2011 “The Fingerprints of Sea Level Change,” SacklerColloquia, (18 May 2011).


McCarthy, James
2012 “Testimony of James J. McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography, Harvard University, before United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, on ‘Update on the Role of the Oceans in Climate Extremes and Rising Sea Level,’ 1 August 2012,” United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, (1 August 2012).


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