The Time to Adapt is Now. Matthias Ruth and Douglas Foy Conclude Open Classroom Series on Climate Change.
Climate Change Series: Conclusion
by Douglas Foy and Matthias Ruth
As we bring our series Climate Change. Challenges. Solutions. to a close, moderators Douglas Foy and Matthias Ruth offer their reflections on the mounting challenges presented by climate change, and the depth and breadth of the solutions that will be required in the coming years.
Douglas Foy is president of Serrafix Corp. and former president of the Conservation Law Foundation. As a super-secretary in Governor Mitt Romney’s cabinet, Doug oversaw transportation, housing, environment, and energy agencies, with combined annual capital budgets of $5 billion.
Twenty years ago, when I started raising the alarm about the dangers of climate change, I thought of it primarily as a legacy issue. Climate change would affect our children and grandchildren. It wasn’t fair that they would have to suffer the consequences of our greed, profligacy and shortsightedness.
Today, it’s increasingly clear that I was wrong. Yes, climate change is a legacy issue that will affect generations to come, but it is also an issue that directly threatens generationstoday. We’re already experiencing the first wave of its impacts and we can expect increasingly severe effects in the near — not distant — future.
Just in the last year, the U.S. has faced severe drought in the Midwest, brutal heat waves in the Southwest, and the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. Though coverage was trumped by the Boston Marathon bombings two weeks ago, central Indiana was inundated by up to 5 inches of rain in 24 hours, causing widespread flooding throughout the region.
Going forward, the presumption should be that any extreme weather event is caused or exacerbated by climate change resulting from greenhouse gas emissions. The burden of proof — not mere assertion, but proof based on hard, scientific evidence — should now be on those who would deny the reality and impacts of climate change.
We need to redouble our efforts at mitigation, at rapidly reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and replacing them as quickly as possible, while building a zero-emissions global economy. But even if we could magically eliminate all new greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, we still face centuries of warming temperatures, extreme weather and rising sea levels.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there’s a lot of thinking and talking about adaptation.
For example, how will coastal cities deal with future super-storms and flooding? Will Boston have to build a barrier across the Harbor Islands to protect the city and surrounding coastal and riverfront communities? If fortification is not possible, will we need to retreat to higher ground, abandoning huge tracts of low-lying land like East Boston and the Back Bay to the sea? And, what about cities that don’t have higher ground to retreat to like Miami?
That the questions are being asked is a good sign, but so far there has been little action. Coastal communities will be hammered by the effects of climate change within the next decade. The time to begin adapting is now.
Matthias Ruth is a professor at Northeastern University with appointments in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is a founder of Ecological Economics and a founding co-editor-in-chief of the journal Urban Climate.
For too long, too much of the climate change debate has focused on silver bullet solutions when what we need are multiple solutions.
Because climate change is a global problem, there is a strong sentiment that it must be solved through a global accord (a silver bullet solution). However, global greenhouse gas emissions have risen 50 percent since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which recently expired. Monitoring and enforcement of any global accord is difficult — even more so as countries embrace trade globalization, which has its own perverse incentives that increase greenhouse gas emissions.
We’ve had endless discussions about using nuclear power to replace fossil fuels as our dominant energy source. But 60 years after the first experiments, nuclear fission faces ongoing cost and safety challenges. Current estimates suggest that the alterative, nuclear fusion, will not be commercially viable until mid-century at the earliest.
The building of dikes and other hard structures to protect against sea-level rise generates another pair of issues: Physical flood control may undermine emergency preparedness and ultimately leave populations more vulnerable when the barriers fail.
Technological leapfrogging, which would have entire continents transition to using cellphones, is another oft-cited potential solution from the telecommunications sector. But more often than not, new technology results in greater consumption, which in turn increases greenhouse gas emissions.
The fundamental reality is that many solutions are required for a problem that has many sources.
Local and regional action in support of a transition to a carbon-free society is in the best interest of the local environment, local businesses and local communities. It is perfectly consistent with the goal of stabilizing global climate. Significant local and regional actions can be taken even when global agreement is not possible.
Replacing fossil fuels requires an “all of the above” approach that makes greater use of renewable energy sources and makes efficiency a priority.
Adaptation to protect cities is more than building bigger and stronger dikes. It includes more robust emergency preparedness systems, as well as hundreds of minor infrastructure adaptations like sensor-operated lighting, pre-programmed thermostats for reduced night-time energy consumption, siding and roofing materials that serve as solar collectors, and better insulation of buildings.
In contrast to technological leapfrogging, behavioral leapfrogging is little-studied and thus, hard to accomplish. The list of potential changes in default settings and signals for behavioral change is long: Designing buildings with attractive staircases and with elevators out of immediate sight to get people walking up a few flights. Placing energy consumption monitors where, in real time, consumption, emissions and costs are displayed to building users. Certifying the energy performance of buildings much like we do for cars via MPG ratings.
We have barely begun to explore — let alone implement — the many ways that small changes in behavior can result in big changes in energy use.
Instead of waiting for the experts and the powerful to agree, we all can do something about climate change. The sooner we get started — acting where we can with the power we have — the better.
NS4G CELEBRATES FIVE YEARS OF MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Northeastern Students4Giving, the University’s experiential philanthropy education program housed in the Human Services Program at the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, has awarded over $83,000 to local nonprofit organizations since its launch in 2008. This year, students, faculty, and friends celebrated the organization’s fifth anniversary with an awards ceremony on Thursday, April 18.
In her remarks at the ceremony, just days after the attack on the Boston Marathon, Program Director Rebecca Riccio reflected on the students who are involved in NS4G.
“I am especially proud to be part of a program which routinely attracts young people who come to us to learn how to make a difference in their professional lives and in their private lives,” Rebecca Riccio said. “It’s a source of comfort to see the care and intensity with which they take the responsibility of giving this money back to the community. It’s also a source of comfort that they will define the future.”
The program engages in real-world philanthropy, awarding grants to local nonprofits determined by annual funding priorities and a rigorous review process. The undergraduates begin the grant-giving cycle in the course “Human Services Professions” by determining local Boston neighborhoods’ most-pressing needs. This year’s NS4G cohort determined those funding priorities to be community mental health and post-incarceration reintegration. Then, after developing a rubric, conducting site visits, and engaging in rigorous deliberations, the students give real-dollar grants to deserving nonprofits.
At the ceremony, NS4G students Sara Pressman and Carolyn Walker awarded Project Place, an organization whose mission it is to provide career development and peer support for incarcerated women preparing to re-enter their communities, one of the competitive grants because it’s the “innovative, passionate, organized, and respectful organization” for which they had been seeking.
Students Katty Mojica-Martinez and Theresa Park presented the second grant to Bridge Over Troubled Waters for the organization’s creativity, its community ties, its passion, and for its potential in helping individuals with mental illness overcome the economic, social, and cultural barriers to accessing mental healthcare.
Both grants of $10,000 each were made possible by gifts from Learning by Giving Foundation and the Wong Family.
Earlier this year, NS4G also hosted its annual Social Impact Conference where Learning by Giving Foundation announced the national winners of its Decisions with Impact student philanthropy video contest. Two NS4G produced videos profiling past grantees Haley House and Brookview House were finalists in the contest. Haley House and Brookview House, who were also in attendance at this year’s ceremony, received a combined $2,500 in the contest from Learning by Giving.
NS4G relies on donors for these grants, as well as for its lecture series and its conference. These funds have also been provided by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, the Arthur K. Watson Charitable Trust, the Charlotte Foundation, and the Sunshine Lady Foundation founded by Doris Buffett, who NS4G honored as a special guest at this year’s ceremony.
Buffett, who proclaimed herself a philosopher rather than a philanthropist, “because that sounds stuck up,” brought the crowd in Raytheon Amphitheater to laughter on several occasions. She answered questions from the students on her giving philosophy, on taking risks with investments, and on drawing attention to marginalized communities who aren’t as easily identified as such.
“I like big issues,” said Buffett, “and then I like to operate on local levels.”
In introducing Buffett, Riccio noted how much of an advocate Buffett is for experiential philanthropy education programs such as NS4G.
“Doris knows the value of money, but she doesn’t think that it’s money that makes the difference,” Riccio explained. “She thinks it’s the people who make the difference when you invest in them. She has invested in us and has made it possible for us to invest in others.”
NS4G students also presented Buffett with a scrapbook which encapsulated the last five years of NS4G and the journey the program has taken with her support.
Diane MacGillivray, Senior VP of University Advancement, wrapped the program up with anecdotes on how philanthropy can affect individuals, as well as her observations on NS4G.
“I’m so very proud as an administrator for Northeastern University to have been affiliated with this program, to have watched it grow, to see what it has become, and what I’m so confident that it will be going forward.”
Pictured above: Philanthropist Doris Buffett, right, was the guest of honor at the 2013 NS4G Annual Awards Ceremony. Photo credit: Brooks Canaday.
Clayton-Matthews predicts short-run economic impact from the Boston Lockdown is similar to a snowstorm
What the Boston Lockdown Might Cost
The manhunt for the remaining Boston Marathon bombing suspect has largely shut down the city and its surrounding areas, as authorities asked residents in Boston and a number of nearby neighborhoods to stay indoors.
Boston Logan International Airport remained open and was operating under “heightened security,” according to the Massachusetts Port Authority, but the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority suspended all public transportation, and businesses large and small told employees to stay home. Utility National Grid closed its facilities in the affected communities and told employees to work remotely, a spokeswoman said, but its crews in the area will work with local authorities to respond to any emergency situations. Schools including Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where authorities said a campus patrol officer was shot and killed by the bombing suspects last night, all cancelled classes.
Not all business activity was shut down. “At the direction of authorities, select Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in the Boston area are open to take care of needs of law enforcement and first responders,” Karen Raskopf, chief communications officer of Dunkin’ Brands, said in an emailed statement.
The Boston metropolitan area had a GDP of nearly $326 billion in 2011, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis released in February. That makes the city and its surroundings the ninth largest metro area in the U.S., with an economy larger than those of Greece, Finland, Singapore, Portugal or Ireland.
It’s far too early to get a complete sense of the economic impact of Monday’s bombings and the subsequent manhunt, but a simple – or simplistic – calculation based on that $326 billion figure suggests that shutting down the area for a day could cost the regions’ economy about $1 billion. That doesn’t account for productivity lost nationally as workers tune into to TV news or other outlets to follow the unfolding events.
But today’s economic activity isn’t necessarily lost – it might just be delayed, similar to the effects from the blizzard that hit the area in February, says Alan Clayton-Matthews, a professor at Northeastern University who studies the region’s economy. “People on salary haven’t really lost any income,” he says. Restaurant and retail workers might not be getting paid for shifts affected by the shutdown, but they could make up for that in the near future. “The short-run impact is pretty much like a snowstorm,” says Clayton-Matthews, “which is kind of odd given how horrific and surreal this situation is.”
The most significant long-run economic impact, if there is any, may come from increased security costs, both in Boston and nationally, particularly for open-air events. “More resources will need to be put into making events secure,” Clayton-Matthews says, “and that takes away resources from other uses that might have led to higher growth in the future.”
On March 22, 2013 Barry Bluestone presented during the final remarks of the three-day Housing Opportunity 2013 conference in Seattle, WA.
Bluestone presented Lessons from Massachusetts during the closing session on Setting Goals for Housing Opportunity.
See video of Bluestone’s presentation below. Click HERE to learn more about the conference and view additional videos.Advance video to 12:50 for the presentation.
Clayton-Matthews predicts potential for economic losses at outside summer events due to lingering fear from Boston marathon bombings
Economics? Biggest loss is yet to come, experts say
By Jack Minch and Jennifer Swift New Haven Register
The biggest economic impact to Friday’s lockdown of Greater Boston is yet to come, said Northeastern University economist and professor of public policy Alan Clayton-Matthews.
Dunkin’ Donuts shops were the only businesses with permission to open in Watertown, and residents throughout Greater Boston were urged to stay inside, so the region ground to a near-halt Friday.
In Boston the MBTA shut down and Bruins and Red Sox postponed their games.
Restaurants and universities were closed in response to the search for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
It is difficult to tell the value of the economic loss, said Jon Hurst, president of Retailers Association of Massachusetts.
“Certainly it is hundreds of millions including retail, restaurants and lost office productivity,” he said in an email. “Could exceed a billion.”
Jim Fitzgerald, the owner of Fit-Z’s Bar and Grill on Main Street in Watertown, said Friday afternoon his bar is a place for people to hang out, but he planned to remain closed until told otherwise.
“Friday is the busiest day of the week for us,” Fitzgerald said. “My friends have called, different people have texted to see if we’re open. But I’m friends with cops, and they’ve told us it’s not a good idea to congregate.
“Friday’s are a busy day for us; so is the weekend, but it’s not worth the risk. Just in case.”
Most of the money lost to business in the short term can be made up, said Northeastern University economist and professor of public policy Alan Clayton-Matthews.
It isn’t unprecedented for businesses to close on workdays, economists said.
Blizzards forced similar closures during snowstorms this winter, said Clayton-Matthews and UMass Lowell Economics Department Chairman Professor Michael Carter.
“In terms of the effect on business this is similar, but since the weather is nicer I think the rebound effect will be stronger,” Carter said.
Many of the people who work in Boston have salaried positions, and hourly employees will get the opportunity to make up the lost hours for shoppers who delay their spending, Clayton-Matthews said.
Some businesses such as pushcart vendors or convenience stores won’t make up the business.
“That business is just gone,” Clayton-Matthews said.
It will be especially difficult for restaurants that cater to the lunchtime crowd, Carter said.
The bigger impact will be on attendance at outdoor events later this year, where fewer people may go to those events out of fear of the danger posed by being in crowds, Clayton-Matthews said.
“People do seem to want to respond to this by being not afraid and not being afraid to be out, but I still suspect there will be some kind of effect later this summer in public open places,” he said.
Businesses and municipalities are likely to start adding security.
The impact will be worldwide, Clayton-Matthews said.
Runners and spectators at the Virgin London Marathon can expect to see increased security Sunday, he said.