Climate change is an unprecedented challenge to public health and safety, the economy, social justice and equity, the natural environment and more. CRWA is marshalling expertise, experience and knowledge gained from its long and documented history of improving environmental conditions through community engagement and partnerships to address our climate challenge. Many of the strategies we have employed for environmental restoration over the past five decades can help us adapt to climate change. CRWA is working with our communities and residents to implement “nature-based” solutions that employ natural processes to build resilience into our landscape, including:
These strategies are often the most cost-effective way to build climate resilience, and they bring numerous co-benefits in terms of improving air and water quality, decreasing local temperatures and adding green space, which has been demonstrated to improve mental and emotional health.
The National Climate Assessment, released in November 2018, offered dire predictions for the Northeast in coming months and years from climate change: increases in total precipitation, especially winter and spring; extreme precipitation events; recurrent flooding; more heat-related deaths; greater evacuated and displaced populations; and all of these impacts are exacerbated by our aging infrastructure including water, sewer, stormwater and transportation. Locally, since 1958, the amount of precipitation that falls during heavy storms (the largest 1% of storms) has increased by over 70%; this increase is almost double the increases observed elsewhere in the United States.
CRWA is working with both traditional and non-traditional partners to take on this challenge. Climate impacts disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, chronically ill, and low-income, not only in the long term but also in the immediate aftermath of severe weather events, as these individuals are less likely to have the means or capacity to move to safer ground, pay for alternative housing, or meet ends without income if they cannot reach their place of work.
CRWA is bringing together communities in the Charles River watershed to work on climate adaptation and strategies at a regional scale.
Many cities and towns are taking proactive leadership roles in adapting to climate change. Even though many cities and towns are allocating resources to climate adaptation, the reality is there are challenges that individual towns cannot address on their own and are more appropriately addressed at a regional scale. Additionally, communities cannot act in a vacuum as the actions of one community will have impacts on neighboring or downstream communities.
Educating elected officials and select board members within the Charles River watershed on the importance of climate resilience to gain legislative support for cities and towns to take proactive roles to adapting to climate change.
Local governments know to invest in police to protect communities from crime. They know to invest in firefighters to protect communities from fire. But mayors, city councilors and select board members are not yet giving nature based solutions the attention they deserve as protection from flooding, heat, and air pollution.