Bold federal action on climate solutions will help safeguard our communities, create good jobs and build a stronger economy, according to participants in a panel discussion on climate change last Wednesday at the UMass Club.
The panel discussion – which featured business leaders, members of the faith community and other advocates who highlighted the impacts of climate change on the region – followed President Obama’s historic action on climate change. The President’s plan includes the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, as well as other strategies to prepare America for the effects of climate change.
“We believe that Boston must prepare for the likely increase in sea levels,” said panelist Tim Brennan, Treasurer and CFO of the Unitarian Universalist Association. “I guarantee you climate change is not ‘priced-in’ to assets.”
In addition to Brennan, the panel also featured remarks from Vivien Li, President of The Boston Harbor Association; Darlene Lombos of Community Labor United, and State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, who moderated the event.
“Hurricane Sandy was a wakeup call for all of us in coastal areas,” said Vivien Li, whose organization has produced a paper, Preparing for the Rising Tide, which has highlighted the impact of climate change on rising sea levels. “What was clear was that, had Hurricane Sandy hit Boston five and a half hours earlier, we would have been devastated because it would have hit at high tide. Six percent of Boston would have been affected, and water would have reached city hall.”
“This is not simply about climate change and investing in the green economy, for us it’s about envisioning a new society that looks different from what we’ve had before,” said Darlene Lombos. “Green jobs need to be good jobs. We’re talking about a green economy that’s much more sustainable and allows for our communities to grow and thrive.”
In Massachusetts, nine counties suffer from unhealthy smog levels, with 134,300 kids and 484,800 adults sickened by asthma statewide each year, according to data from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). In addition, about 42 percent of the state’s counties now face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of climate change. In 2011 in Massachusetts, eight counties experienced record-breaking heat; nine experienced record-breaking rainfall, and seven experienced record-breaking snowfall, according to the same NRDC data.
On Earth Day 2011, Mayor Thomas Menino released an update to the city’s climate action plan, titled “A Climate of Progress.” Major goals of the updated plan included:
· Reducing community greenhouse emissions 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
· Incorporating projected climate change into all formal planning and project review processes.
· Engaging all segments of the community in climate action and leadership.
·Developing innovative businesses and workforce skills to take advantage of climate action opportunities.