Contributing Editors

Jerome Lyle Rappaport

Jerome Lyle Rappaport
Founder and Board Member
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Edward Glaeser

Edward Glaeser
Professor of Economics at Harvard University
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Stephen P. Johnson

Stephen P. Johnson
Executive Director of Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation
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Greg Massing

Greg Massing
Executive Director for the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service
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Alasdair Roberts

Alasdair Roberts
Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School
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Joseph Curtatone

Joseph Curtatone
Mayor, City of Somerville
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Tim H. Davis

Tim H. Davis
Independent Research Consultant
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Scott Harshbarger

Scott Harshbarger
Senior Counsel, Proskauer Rose LLP
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Vivien Li

Vivien Li
Executive Director of The Boston Harbor Association
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Guest contributors

Monika Bandyopadhyay
Suffolk University Law Student

David Barron
Harvard Law School and former Deputy Counsel for the Office of Legal Counsel in the US Department of Justice

Linda Bilmes
Senior lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Assistant Secretary of Commerce during the Clinton Administration.

Brandy H.M. Brooks
Director, Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, Bruner Foundation

Felicia Cote
Rappaport Fellow, Harvard Law School/Harvard Kennedy School.

Amanda Eden
Suffolk University Law School student

Sara Farnum
Student, Suffolk Univ. Law School

Kristin Faucette
Student at Suffolk University Law School

Benjamin Forman
Research Director, MassINC

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday
JD/MBA student at Suffolk University Law School and the Sawyer School of Business

Theodore Kalivas
Boston Green Blog, Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy

David Linhart
Student, Boston University School of Law

Antoniya Owens
Research Analyst, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Susan Prosnitz
Senior Advisor, TSA, Washington, DC

Ben Thomas
Boston Green Blog, Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy

Matthew Todaro
Student at Boston College Law School

Alexander von Hoffman
Senior Researcher, Joint Center for Housing Studies

Brett Walker
Student, Boston College Law School

Margarita Warren
Student at Suffolk University Law School

Making Waves To Address Rising Sea Levels

Monday, January 24th, 2011
By Vivien Li

Special To Banker & Tradesman, December 27, 2010

By the end of this century, the sea level in Boston could rise two-and-a-half feet, and possibly more than six feet, due to warming oceans and the melting of glacial ice caps. The wide range in predictions is based on not knowing what our future carbon emissions will be.

Scientists from UMass Boston and Battelle Memorial Institute delivered this report, based on the latest research, at The Boston Harbor Association’s recent Sea Level Rise Forum.

The gathering of more than 450 waterfront developers, residents, community leaders and government representatives focused on the potential sea-level rise in Boston due to climate change. Already, Long Wharf and Central Wharf are flooded during the highest of high tides, noted New England Aquarium President Bud Ris.

UMass Boston Professor Ellen Douglas showed how sea-level rise, a spring tide and a 100-year storm could bring water over the Charles River locks, flooding even inland neighborhoods of Back Bay, Beacon Hill and South End.

Both the administrations of Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino have aggressively and creatively been working to address global warming. Last April, the Mayor’s Climate Action Leadership Committee recommended that the Boston community reduce its greenhouse gases by at least 25 percent in the next 10 years. Boston recently joined more than 60 Commonwealth communities in adopting the “stretch code,” which requires all construction to conform to stricter energy-efficiency standards, with a 20 percent increase in efficiency in new commercial buildings and up to a 35 percent increase in efficiency in residential buildings.

Waterfront developments, such as the Fan Pier project, Waterside Place, Atlantic Wharf and Seaport Square – as part of their compliance with the green-building provisions in the city’s zoning code -- have all committed to energy efficiencies and best practices to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Green roofs are beginning to dot the South Boston waterfront, including the John Hancock/Manulife, Boston Children’s Museum and Atlantic Wharf buildings.

Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions

As development of Boston’s waterfront and the Innovation District move forward, a number of complementary actions can be taken to further mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to rising sea level. For example:

Reduce dependence on private automobiles. The City of Boston anticipates reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 30 percent from transportation sources by 2020. Continued efforts to make new developments truly transit-dependent by promoting nearby public transportation, including water transportation, is critical. With more neighborhoods having access to car-sharing arrangements, such as Zipcars, and improved bicycle infrastructure, such as bike lanes, it is time for city planners and agencies to require fewer parking spaces per development, to stimulate greater transit, car-sharing and bicycle usage.
“Raise the heat” a little. It is not unusual in summer to walk through hotel lobbies or office buildings where occupants are wearing sweaters because of excessive air-conditioning, or in winter to find occupants lightly dressed because spaces are over-heated. Countries such as China have begun to “raise the heat.” Efforts include keeping air-conditioning to a minimum in public spaces and turning on aircraft engines (and air-conditioning) only after passengers have boarded and departure is imminent. In Boston, property managers who adjust room temperatures by a few degrees each season can collectively contribute to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, while also saving money.
Move up the ground floor. Some waterfront projects are beginning to raise their buildings to adapt to rising sea level. In its relocation to the Charlestown Navy Yard, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital has raised its ground floor three feet higher than the street, placed mechanical and electrical systems on the roof rather than the basement and avoided locating critical-care activities on the first floor. David Begelfer, chief executive of NAIOP Massachusetts, suggested that regulators allow developers to raise overall building height, since the ground level may not be fully useable.
Perhaps most encouraging in all the dialogue about sea-level rise has been the establishment of a Boston Green Ribbon Commission, co-chaired by Menino and Barr Foundation founder Amos Hostetter. Comprised of 30 leaders from such sectors as banking, real estate, health care, academia, business and non-profit organizations, the commission will work to support Boston’s Climate Action Plan.

Such leadership, together with the continued public- and private-sector commitments to sustainable development, has the potential to make Boston one of the communities best-prepared to deal with rising sea level and other climate change impacts in the decades ahead. 


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