By Emma Lyons
Arts & Features Editor
The Henry Whittemore Library hosted a viewing of a virtual panel held by Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW), followed by an open discussion connecting the panel to Framingham State Sept. 27.
The panel focused on discussing the rising sea levels as a result of climate change, and how this would affect Boston. The discussion afterwards focused on reflecting and connecting the panel to FSU and how students could help in efforts to combat climate change.
The speakers included Barbara Moran, an environmental reporter for WBUR, Phil Giffee, executive director of the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), Baylor Fox-Kemper, a professor at Brown University, Courtney Humphries, a science researcher and journalist, and Paul Kirshen, a professor at UMass Boston.
Fox-Kemper began the discussion, talking about rising sea levels on a global level.
He explained the main two factors that cause sea level rise: the oceans expanding and water added to the ocean. Global warming connects to both, because as the temperature of the oceans becomes hotter they expand, and the rise in heat causes frozen water to melt into the ocean.
“Over the past century or so, we’ve seen pretty even contributions from the warming of the oceans giving about half the sea level rise we’ve seen. And the addition, primarily from the mountain-top glaciers, that’s sort of the other half,” he said.
Fox-Kemper said that going into the next century, researchers expect the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica to start melting more rapidly, which will cause an acceleration in sea level rise.
“That’s really serious for Boston,” he said.
Fox-Kemper displayed a photo of how Boston would look after 3 meters of sea level rise. He explained that the image was a depiction of worse conditions than what could occur within this century, but that it was still good to acknowledge it because sea levels will continue to rise after this century.
“We really have no choice but to [adapt] because this is what’s going to come in the next decades to centuries,” he said.
The discussion was turned over to Kirshen, who focused on sea level rise specific to Boston. He explained there are several local and regional factors causing the sea level rise in Boston to occur faster than in other parts of the country.
He said because of these factors, the sea level in Boston by 2050 would be a foot higher than it is right now.
“If we can choose a lower emission path moving forward - if we get to net zero emissions by 2050 - we might only have 2 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century. But, if we keep on the path we are going, we may have 4 and a half feet or more of sea level rise by the end of the century,” he said.
He said that it is important to reduce emissions, as it will be easier to deal with 2 feet of sea level rise, rather than 4.
Sea level rise will also cause additional flooding because of high tide along the shore, he said. This could also affect the sewer system if flooding causes the drainage systems throughout the city not to work properly, he said.
Humphries took over the discussion, explaining how Boston had a history of filling in marshes and low-lying land.
She drew a correlation between the land that was filled and built over and the flood models of how rising sea levels could affect the city, saying that those charts show an “outline almost of the original land” of Boston.
She said that the city is now able to learn from that decision and can now see the importance of coastal wetlands.
She talked about the future of Boston, and how the structure of the city needs to be more adaptable. “We need to think about how we make decisions for the future,” she said.
Giffee turned the conversation to a “hyper-local” level and focused on the future of East Boston.
He explained how the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) works to educate all of its residents on the current issues within climate change. They host several events about climate change to keep people informed, and work to make it accessible by holding events entirely in Spanish so Spanish-speakers can stay informed.
“Part of our role is to bring in great experts like Paul [Kirshen] and others participating in this event to make it diverse and bring the issues to the table,” Giffee said.
He displayed a slideshow talking more in depth about the specific preparations NOAH has regarding climate change as a whole.
After a few additional questions, the Zoom panel ended and the library staff held a short discussion about the panel and how it could connect to Framingham State.
Larry Stoodt, chair of Framingham Sustainability Committee, talked about the importance of young people being involved in efforts and bringing up these issues of climate change to local legislatures in order for change to occur.