Boston plans for rising tides from climate change

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Most cities across the United States have been dealing with scorching temperatures and record-breaking drought. But the city of Boston has been haggling over an issue that would be welcome news in places like the Midwest: the possibility of rising water.

Scientists in Boston are predicting that climate change can lead to drastic increases in sea levels around the city. They fear that a storm surge at high tide could easily flood parts of the city. They say the area that’s home to Boston’s Faneuil Hall, the city’s first public market, is one of them. The land the hall was built on was once waterfront property. But by the late 1800s, the growing city needed more room. So the marshes and mudflats along the wharf were filled in and the city expanded.

Jim Hung is Boston’s chief of environmental and energy services. He told National Public Radio (NPR) that more than 50 percent of downtown Boston is filled tidelands.

Hunt helped Boston create a comprehensive climate action plan. Its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the dangers of a warmer climate such as heat waves, storms and the rising sea.

Meanwhile, the national debate on climate change rages on. But regardless of that, Boston is calling the projected sea level rise a ‘near-term risk’. Projections range from 2 to 6 feet here by the end of the century, depending on how fast polar ice melts. Add to that a hurricane storm surge, and some models show parts of Boston under 10 feet of water. Researchers have told the city that by 2050, that could happen as often as every two to three years.

That’s why Boston is now asking waterfront developers to plan now for more frequent flooding.

According to NPR, city officials have been studying the dangers and possible effects of flooding on sewers and roads. The city is also undertaking a major environmental restoration project on the Muddy River to control flooding.

A recent study by MIT shows Boston is not alone. More than half of American cities are also thinking about ways to become more resilient in the face of possible climate disasters.

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