Boston Prepares For Climate Change

City wins award during international climate talks in Paris

This week, world leaders continue to wrangle over climate talks in Paris.

The Commissioner of Boston’s Environment Department, Carl Spector, attended as well. He was there as the city won an award for its efforts to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

“There’s no section of the city for which I’m unconcerned,” Spector told necn before he left for Paris last week.

“It seems pretty obvious there will be a good agreement, the question always is, is it enough,” he added.

2 °C Warming and Sea Level Rise

Since the late 1800s, the world has warmed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1 degree Celsius.

Most scientists want an agreement that caps warming at 2 degrees Celsius.

Research released this year shows that earth was last that warm millions of years ago. At that time, sea levels were some 15 feet higher than what we’re seeing today.

A sea level rise that dramatic would be devastating for Boston, leaving much of the city underwater. That would take hundreds of years to happen, however.

A more modest increase of up to 3 feet is expected this century.

Because of that, the city requires all new construction to analyze potential effects of climate change, and come up with ways to mitigate those effects.

For Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, that means putting critical utilities on the roof, not in the basement.

Vice President of Hospital Operations, Paula Hereau, says that’s a lesson learned from Katrina, when flooding swamped hospitals and cut off power.

Spaulding also installed operable windows to allow in fresh air during an outage.

“We’re pretty sure, based on the calculations done so far, and the planning we’ve done, that the building should be safe for 100 years,” Hereau says.

Soon, the city will have a new 100 year plan to keep Boston safe too.

“We are going to do a more detailed vulnerability assessment that we’ve ever done before, of the risks that Boston faces over the next 50-100 years,” Spector added.

That assessment should be done in the spring.

Meantime, the Paris climate talks continue for the rest of this week.

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