Climate Ready Boston is a roadmap for creating a stronger,
more resilient city. Focusing on coastal and riverine flooding, stormwater
flooding, and extreme temperatures, the plan identifies strategies to mitigate
future risks for our changing environment. Importantly, the strategies look for
opportunities for resilience investments to be multi-benefit—addressing hazard
mitigation and contributing more broadly to improved quality of life in our
city. In this way, resilience becomes a tool for advancing social equity,
promoting economic development, and improving opportunities for healthy living
and access to green space. Historically, the story of Boston has been tied to a changing
coastline. In Boston’s early years, land fill projects expanded the city
outward, creating new land for expanding neighborhoods and commercial areas. Now,
with rising seas, the coastline—and flood risk—is changing course and migrating
inland. Water, however, isn’t the only risk. Extreme temperatures and heat
waves pose significant increasing threats for public health, especially for
youth, older residents, and others with preexisting health conditions that make
them especially vulnerable to heat .
Climate Ready Boston is an initiative to plan for how the
city will continue to thrive while adapting to long-term climate change. It has
three main components: climate project consensus (completed by the Boston
Research Advisory Group), vulnerability assessment, and resilience initiatives.
An interdisciplinary team of Arcadis, Sasaki, HR&A Advisors, and the
University of Massachusetts Boston completed the report in December 2016.
Building on the latest scientific projections, the vulnerability
assessment analyzes how Boston’s people, buildings, infrastructure, and economy
will be affected by climate hazards. The analysis maps hazards and quantifies
risks from extreme heat, stormwater flooding, sea level rise, and coastal and
riverine flooding. Without action, an increasing number of residents,
businesses, buildings, and infrastructure systems will be exposed to flooding. For
example, by the 2070s, annualized losses from coastal and riverine flooding
could amount to $1.4 billion, and exposure to flooding in a 1% annual chance
flood (a severe event) could include 14% of Boston’s population (88,000
people), 10% of the city’s K-12 schools, 32 MBTA stations, 240 essential public
facilities (law enforcement stations, fire stations, and EMS), and sections of
many evacuation routes. In addition, more days of extreme heat—up to 90 days a
year about 90 degrees—will pose significant health risks. Mortality rates due
to extreme heat are expected to triple with the impacts of climate change in
Boston. Sasaki examined the impacts these environmental shocks and stresses
could have on vulnerable populations in the city.
More broadly, Sasaki developed the Climate Ready Boston
graphic brand and identity. The color choices, project logo, and overall
graphic style focus on setting an optimistic, hopeful tone, reinforcing the
need to view climate adaptation as a broader opportunity for a better city. Sasaki
designed the project maps and graphs, focusing on clearly communicating complex
ideas to a broad audience.
Addressing the risks identified in the vulnerability
assessment, the resilience initiatives include policy, planning, programmatic,
and financial strategies that work together to increase Boston’s resilience. Addressing
the multiple scales and layers of resilience, the resilience initiatives focus
on prepared and connected communities, protected shores, resilient
infrastructure, and adapted buildings. Strategies include leveraging climate
adaptation as a tool for equitable economic development, expanding education
and engagement of Bostonians on climate hazards and action, and expanding the
use of green infrastructure and other natural systems to manage stormwater and
mitigate heat. An overarching goal is to ensure investments in reducing risk
will also be contributing to higher quality of life in the city—especially for
its most vulnerable residents.
Climate Ready Boston is led
by the City of Boston in partnership with the Green Ribbon Commission and with
support from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management. The Climate
Ready Boston report is available on the city's website.
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