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How Boston is Adapting to Climate Change

Everything you need to know about Boston’s approach to the climate crisis


By Bethany Hartman


Graphic By Florence Wang

As the impacts of climate change become increasingly evident in cities, the need for adaptation strategies increases. Boston’s geographic location makes it particularly susceptible to three main vulnerabilities: extreme heat, stormwater flooding, and coastal and riverine flooding, according to the City of Boston. Collaboration across the government and community organizations is essential for effective adaptation.


One of the most pressing challenges facing Boston is flooding. This danger poses a significant threat to waterfront neighborhoods and vulnerable communities. We have already seen some major issues around the city. For example, the Fort Point area’s constant flooding has caused transportation shutdowns and infrastructure damages, the most recent occurrence being in January, according to an article from WGBH. These areas now flood multiple times a year, leaving residents feeling unseen and unsafe. 


Historically marginalized neighborhoods bear the brunt of extreme heat, amplifying existing disparities. The urban heat island effect, which is an area of mostly dark, paved surfaces without cover, experiences higher temperatures as a result of direct sunlight. These areas are typically in underdeveloped neighborhoods like Chinatown or Roxbury, which are disproportionately affected by increasing temperatures, according to an article from A Better City


“Today, formerly redlined areas of Boston experience greater burdens during hotter summers. During a heat wave, redlined areas can be 7.5°F hotter in the day and 3.6°F hotter at night than the rest of Boston,” quotes the City of Boston’s Heat Resilience Solutions report.


Thus, the challenges of adapting to climate change are not only an environmental concern but a racial equity issue as well.


So, what specific actions is the city taking? Local community members and government officials have stepped up. 


The Emerald Tutu project, led by Gabriel Cira, uses an ecological approach to reduce coastal flooding. The team focuses on developing “biomass-based coastal protection” to maintain the area’s greenery and prevent invasion. The masses are seeded with native marsh grass, combining its role as flooding protection and habitat for various species.


To tackle the extreme heat issue, the city plans to invest in cool roofs, according to the City of Boston’s website. This involves installing white roofs that reflect solar radiation, adding plants to provide insulation, absorb rainwater, and offer natural shade, and installing solar roofs that generate renewable energy. These solutions are not only easy to implement, but highly effective. 


Bostonians and city officials are working hard to address climate change adaptation issues. As climate change’s effects continue to change our world, equitable, sustainable, and economical solutions are at the forefront of a more resilient future.

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