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Plan now for a climate-resilient Boston tomorrow

Boston 12/23/22 Significant flooding occurred at high tide, Dec. 23, 2022, on Long Wharf as water from Boston Harbor spilled on to Long Wharf and State Street.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Kudos to the Globe editorial board for urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to act with more urgency to “be proactive in terms of helping communities become and remain climate resilient and helping protect against climate disasters before they happen,” (“FEMA’s focus on climate resiliency is right. Now it must take action before it’s too late,” Opinion, April 15).

Here in Massachusetts, climate change is bringing more flooding to coastal areas from sea level rise and storm surge but also to inland areas from more intense rainstorms overwhelming stormwater pipes not built for extreme daily precipitation, which is projected to increase 10 to 20 percent in intensity by 2050, and 20 to 30 percent by 2100 — with river floods being larger and more frequent. According to an upcoming report by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, in the historic March 2010 storms that devastated cities and towns across the Commonwealth, only 4 percent of disaster claims were located in FEMA 1 percent chance flood zones. Many of our municipal buildings, schools, hospitals, homes, and businesses are built on filled-in wetlands or over buried streams, and that is where the water is coming back to. Yet state and local rules around development have not caught up to the science, such that we are still allowing development in areas that we know are going to be flooding more frequently. Just one example: Guidance for the recent MBTA Communities law says, “...an MBTA community may want to avoid including in multi-family zoning district areas that are subject to flooding.” By the use of “may” rather than “shall,” the state seems to be implying that it would be prudent for a community to direct new development to a flood zone. We need to work with nature rather than think that we can control it, because in the end, nature will win. The water is coming. The question is, are we going to continue to put people in harm’s way and make short-sighted investments with limited public and private funds, or work with nature to guide smart decisions and keep us safe? That’s a question to put to your local and state elected officials.


Emily Norton

Executive director


Charles River Watershed Association


Thanks to the Globe editorial board for spotlighting the National Flood Insurance Program. The program’s accumulation of $20.5 billion in public debt stands as indisputable evidence that an overhaul is necessary to reflect the true cost of increasing catastrophic storms. Understandably, this is not a popular idea for wealthy campaign donors, many of whom own extravagant and at-risk coastal properties.

This NFIP quandary is a microcosm of the global warming threat. Last year, the United Nations secretary-general warned that new investments in fossil fuels were “delusional.” Nevertheless, new fossil fuel projects continue in the United States and around the globe, putting us firmly on a path to catastrophe. Politicians are so afraid of losing their donor base, they haven’t had the courage to simply ask citizens for voluntary cuts to energy use.

Can we accept the inconvenient truth that infinite growth is incompatible with a livable planet? Will we vote for candidates who will aim for the painful changes that are necessary? Thus far, we have voted for too many politicians who spread the comforting lie that scientists are alarmists and that we can “safely” maintain business as usual.


Kerry Castonguay