A Democratic state representative from Bedford is pushing for Massachusetts to create a state climatologist post to track the effects of climate change on the Commonwealth and to work with various agencies and environmental experts on crafting responses to the increasingly dire crisis.
Representative Kenneth I. Gordon filed a bill July 29 to establish a state climatologist, records show. The bill was referred days later to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. It remains pending.
According to the language of the bill, the office of the state climatologist would be housed within the University of Massachusetts system.
The office, the bill says, would be tasked with gathering and analyzing ”data on climate conditions in” Massachusetts. It would also conduct research on “the climate in the commonwealth” and seek “opportunities for sponsored research concerning climate issues” in the state, the bill says.
Among the bill’s boosters is Charles Orloff, executive director of the Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center.
Orloff wrote in a recent e-mail message to supporters that Massachusetts is “the only state in the entire country without this critical scientific role” of state climatologist.
“A State Climatologist Office would provide a visible point-of-contact for the coordination and communication of physical climate information and expertise relevant to Massachusetts,” Orloff wrote.
The office would also collaborate with various federal agencies, educate the public on climate matters, and “advise branches of state and local government concerning the climate in the commonwealth and its implications for both economic and scientific needs in conjunction with existing and future environmental factors relating to the climate in” Massachusetts, per the bill.
Gordon said Tuesday that Massachusetts is in dire need of climate czar.
“Like the other 49 states, Massachusetts needs a state climatologist to be an authoritative point-of-contact for our residents, businesses, and policymakers about climate change as they work to adapt to its impacts,” he said in a statement. “We have no specific person in mind, but we are aware of qualified candidates.”
Orloff stressed that a state climatologist would “develop and disseminate the best-available scientific information to those working to make the Commonwealth more resilient and to the residents of the Commonwealth who will need to adapt to climate change. In addition, as the Commonwealth seeks to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, the MA State Climatologist would help provide needed scientific expertise to inform effective policy decisions.”
Orloff also implored Blue Hill supporters to press their lawmakers to back Gordon’s bill.
“At this critical moment in time when climate change is becoming ever more challenging, we are asking you to e-mail your State Representative and Senator and ask them to support Bill H.4062 by becoming a co-sponsor of this bill that will create an Office of State Climatologist,” he wrote.
Gordon’s bill comes after Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, in March signed a climate bill into law that established one of the nation’s most far-reaching efforts to reduce planet-warming carbon emissions.
The law requires Massachusetts to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, 75 percent below those levels by 2040, and achieve “net zero” emissions by 2050. Given that it’s unlikely the state will eliminate all of its emissions, officials will have to plant trees or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to offset any lingering use of fossil fuels or other sources of greenhouse gases.
In addition, the law calls for increasing energy-efficiency requirements for appliances and for utilities to buy significantly more offshore wind power. It also has potentially broad ramifications for the business community, touching everything from the solar industry to municipal light plants.
In a March signing ceremony at the State House, Baker said the bill spoke to the profound need for the state and nation to address climate change.
“We know the impacts on our coast, on our fisheries, on our farms, and on our communities are real and demand action,” Baker said at the time.
The stakes are high.
Earlier this month, the world’s top climate scientists found that the Earth is approaching the watershed mark of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures a decade earlier than expected, according to a bombshell report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.