Climate Change Addressing New and Mounting Pressures
Climate change is an unprecedented challenge to the natural environment, public health and safety, the economy, social structures, and more.
CRWA is marshalling expertise, experience, and knowledge gained from our long and documented history of improving environmental conditions to address our climate challenge. Many of the strategies we have employed for environmental restoration over the past five decades—such as strong community engagement, developing partnerships, and a focus on restoring nature—are the exact same tools that can help our watershed 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. These 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. Many cities and towns across the watershed are taking proactive leadership roles in adapting to climate change.
There are challenges that individual towns cannot address on their own, however, and are more appropriately addressed at a regional or watershed scale. Additionally, communities cannot act in a vacuum as the actions of one community will have impacts on neighboring or downstream communities. CRWA is bringing together communities in the Charles River watershed to work on climate adaptation issues such as flooding, heat impacts, tree health, dam removal, and regional collaboration. Learn more in Culture of Change.
In addition to our communities, CRWA is working with both traditional and non-traditional partners in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors to take on this challenge. Climate impacts disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, chronically ill, and low-income residents, 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.
While we don’t know everything climate change will bring, we know enough to act, and we know we need to act fast! The National Climate Assessment, released in November 2018, offered dire predictions for the Northeast in coming years: increases in total precipitation, especially in 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.