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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Boston Chief of Env. Blackmon Visits UMB for Climate Resiliency Event

Austin Blackmon, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space came to the University of Massachusetts Boston to discuss Boston’s climate resiliency. Faculty from the College of Management invited Blackmon to speak as part of a series of talks hosted throughout the academic year. Some of the things discussed included how sea level rising will affect Boston neighborhoods and how the city plans to reduce its carbon footprint. Many of the points Blackmon touched upon are also seen in Boston’s Climate Action Plan. The Action Plan has a list of timelines and goals to meet in order for Boston to become more environmentally sustainable.
Blackmon began the discussion by saying, “This is an exciting time to be in Boston,” referring to economic and population growth in the city, as well as its many construction projects. He then turned the audience’s attention to climate change. In a series of slides, Blackmon showed the audience how rising sea levels due to climate change threaten to flood Boston. According to a study from the Boston Harbor Tide Gauge cited by Blackmon, “Locally, sea level has risen one foot and [is] accelerating.” Discussion then focused on how the city plans to adapt to these changes and be proactive about climate change. Some efforts are already underway. 
Setting goals is one component of this proactive approach. In 2005, Boston made the goal to cut its green house gas emissions by 25% in 2020 and 80% in 2050. Blackmon mentioned that Boston has almost reached this first target, with reductions currently at 17%.
The proactive approach also means ensuring safety; the city has solar powered streets along evacuation zones in case of a natural disaster. In the scope of adaptation, building codes are also being upgraded to incentivize environmentally sustainable projects. One example of this is the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in Charlestown. The center’s energy system can stay functioning for 72 hours after a power shut down and high-need patients are at higher floors to protect them from potential floods.
Throughout his talk, Blackmon mentioned that the City of Boston has a long way to go on its path to climate resilience. These things include expanding community dialogue and business partnerships. Furthermore, challenges such as fuel-switching and supplying energy stand in the way. At one point in the discussion, Blackmon described how Boston has been lucky in the past few decades. But, in terms of climate change, “Luck isn’t a policy we can continue to count on.”