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Jack Clarke: We must plan, adapt to living with ‘weather on steroids’

The cost of the largest Atlantic hurricane ever was the tragic loss of 159 human lives and $68 billion in damage. Sandy was not so much an environmental disaster as she was a public-safety and economic one. Add in the droughts, heat waves, storms, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires of 2012, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, the cost to America was a staggering $120 billion.

Experts predict 10 Sandy-like storms by the end of the century and chances are the Bay State will be slammed by at least one. The Cambridge-based Union of Concerned Scientists forecasts Boston should expect today’s once-a-century coastal impacts to become once-a-year outcomes during that same time period. With flooding from a superstorm like Sandy, the Boston Harbor Association predicts that almost half of Boston and its neighborhoods would be flooded with waves knocking at City Hall’s doors.

Further, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international economic think tank, recently cited Boston eighth among the world’s major cities most threatened by flooding due to sea-level rise.

The prevailing view among meteorologists is that superstorms are the product of climate change and the attendant hotter and higher oceans that energize such storms. At its annual meeting in Boston this year, the American Association for the Advancement of Science agreed that climate change is producing extreme weather. We’re experiencing weather on steroids and we have to prepare for its uncertain and possible catastrophic effects.

Be it sea-level rise and coastal erosion, more frequent and severe droughts and flooding, or just plain weird weather, it’s time to plan for what was previously the unexpected and manage what is now the unavoidable. Since Sandy, our conversations about climate change have themselves changed. The current challenge is not so much about saving the planet from heat-trapping gases as it is about saving us from a warming planet. It’s not throwing in the towel but facing the realities of living with, coping with, and adapting to the effects of global warming caused by emissions from fossil fuel-burning power plants and motor vehicles.

With so much carbon pollution already in the air and our traditional fossil fuel energy production and use patterns locked in, we have no choice but to live with its consequences.

Sure, we need to continue to reduce air pollution and build renewable energy projects using the sun, wind and tides. And we need to continue to increase energy efficiencies in cars, trucks, utilities and appliances; but we also need to do both: mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to them.

At its outer edges, Sandy was more than a thousand miles wide. Today, 85 percent of Massachusetts’ 6.7 million residents live within 50 miles of the coast. We are vulnerable and we need a plan — a comprehensive adaptation management plan that will show us how to lessen storm impacts to our built and natural environment and then demonstrate how to use both to protect us.

Specifically, we need a plan that assesses the vulnerability of the commonwealth’s electrical grid, buildings, roads, airports, dams, water supplies and sewage treatment plants and then recommends how to strengthen them.

We need a plan that recognizes the protective value of our beaches and wetlands, forests and rivers and then explains how to use their natural resiliencies to buffer people from the disastrous impacts of stronger, more frequent storms.

Finally, we need a plan that identifies our most vulnerable human populations and determines how best to insulate them from the near-certain ravages of superstorms.

Last summer, President Obama said: “Those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it — they’re busy dealing with it.” It’s now time for Massachusetts to deal with it and prepare a comprehensive adaptation management plan that guides us in living with the effects and unpredictability of an ever-warming planet.

Jack Clarke is director of public policy and government relations for Mass Audubon.

Legacy Comments27

Global warming has become a quasi religious belief for the progressives and social justice crowd. When you even dare to pose questions about the basis for the belief in their dogma the predictable response is a vicious personal attack similar to when you question any person's religious beliefs.

Hey, jdurf1 was the one who brought up my mom.

Anyway (and I really do have to go now) you guys can't possibly think that the kind of comments that you post, with the tone use in them, are not meant to provoke emotion rather than reason. I recognize that you, gary, at least try to include things that you consider to be "facts." That makes you much more sophisticated than jdurf1, who goes straight to the childish name calling and borderline-homophobic comments. But then again, you repeat and repeat your "oil sands stock" fantasy or your "any greenie that flies a plane is a hypocrite" story as if people hadn't heard it all before or could be swayed. You're not going to convince anyone, so why bother? This is what makes you two and a few others stand out from most posters--including conservatives--in that your posts don't seem to have anything to do with what 90% of the people here are trying to do with discussion threads. You're looking for people to ignore you, so that you can feel like you got the last word, or for a sharp response, so you can assume your gleeful role as whiny victims. I really wonder what you guys think you or anyone else gets out of this. For my part, I really am fascinated by the lengths you go to get in the last word, and the complete lack of self-consciousness that seems to be involved.

Brevity, narcissist is a virtue

I'm sorry, honey, I know reading a lot is hard for you. I'll make a video next time. OK, now I really am going.


The UN is going to report later this month that most of any global warming has already occured and is scaling back the warmist projections for future sea rise and temperature increases. In addition, any warming to this point has been beneficial to our species in terms of increased food production. Expect panic in the green community when this report is fully absorbed by the public. Also, the largest increase in Artic sea ice on record this summer even though Al Jezeera Gore predicted an ice free Artic in 2013. Lowest level of torandos in the US on record this year. Lastest date ever for a named hurricane this year. Projections of an extremely bad winter this coming winter. Just facts - but lets not politicize science after all. How much money the greenies were expecting to make off all this and now they may not afterall. They are in a panic. I'm still recommending Canadian Oil Sands, trades on the Toronto exchange. Its a fracking play. Drill baby drill. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324549004579067532485712464.html

You're like a broken Chipmunks record, though not nearly as easy on the ears. Why do you keep recycling old rants? Really, it's like you're not even trying anymore. Maybe you can flesh out your "Al Jezeera Gore" quip a little? Really, I count on your clownish rants to give me a much-needed chuckle during my coffee breaks. This one just makes me feel sad for you.

In case some people don't know the inconvenient truth - Al Gore sold Current TV to Al Jezeera America, the state owned TV network of the ruling family of Qatar, the oil rich CO2 spewing middle eastern kingdom - in the process making Al Gore one of the richest people in America - richer than Mitt Romney actually. Thats why he's called Al Jezerra Gore now. I actually watched some of it the first day it aired until it became so painfully obvious it was slanted heavily to the muslim brotherhood point of view I had to turn it off. Its sad how some people attack the messenger and not the message. Facts don't matter to some people. The fact is global warming is not happening anywhere near what the expert unfallible climatologists in the warmest community were forecasting a few years ago. All their models have been proven to be incredibly inaccurate. Those are the facts - science deniers. The UN report is going to confirm this. Its going to say that if anything the small amount of appearant global warming and CO2 increase has been beneficial to our planet up to this point. The things we need to worry about are how to create food for 8 billion people. How to create jobs for 8 billion people. How to provide energy for 8 billion people and growing. Thats the challenge we face.

GOOD BOY. Now roll over...


Awwwww, did you find that URL all by yourself jdurf1?

You know who else finds funny videos on the web and posts them? My 6 year old niece.

Your mom helped me :-)

Not surprised. She is a social worker at a public mental health clinic.

She's very enthusiastic.

Yes, about helping folks like you lead happy and productive lives and, hopefully, attain some measure of independence. I could go on all day, so why don't we stop here. Or you could post some of the drivel that passes for your political opinions, and get a real earful.

Actually, I take that last one back. The people at the clinic are sick and are working hard to overcome things that were outside of their control. I feel really bad now that I compared them to you. You chose to be this way, let Fox News rot your brain out, and apparently stunt your sense of "humor" and language skills at some point in the fourth grade.

Get over yourself.

I did long ago. Which is why I'm here with you participating in a discussion that is clearly beneath me!


Elitist. There's a difference.

Not in your case.

Huh? What's that even mean?

What did you mean?

Oh, I guess I was saying that I am an elitist, not a narcissist. 2012 on the election trail, Rick Santorum said "We [Republicans] will never be the party of elite smart people." I guess if those are my choices, I'd go for the latter. But anyway, I have finished the work that I was doing, and do not have to sit in front of this computer any more. Plus, this has already produced an embarassingly long and public thread. But thanks for helping pass the time while my very slow computer chewed through some data.

Gaaaaaaary. Findings of this UN report, which you have been harping on for some time, are showing up on the news. I don't think it says what you think it was going to say.

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