Temperatures have cooled, but last week’s heat wave was a sign of what could come if we don’t properly address climate change. Here in Boston, extreme temperatures aren’t the only threat we have to worry about. As a coastal city, Boston is particularly vulnerable to environmental changes, and readers have some ideas about what the city can do about that fact.
We asked readers how they think climate change solutions should be approached locally. Fifty-five percent of the Boston.com readers polled said they aren’t concerned about climate change, while 22% said that lawmakers are already doing enough to address the problem.
Many readers are skeptical that climate change can be addressed by local lawmakers.
“It is a large-scale global problem that needs a large-scale global solution,” one reader wrote. “This is not a problem that a local government can solve, and will only hurt people who can least afford it.”
On a federal level, climate change policy had a big win last week after Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will move the nation toward clean energy and help cut our greenhouse gas pollution by roughly 40% below 2005 levels.
But Boston is also making moves to protect residents against negative environmental changes. The risk of coastal flooding in Boston is only getting worse, according to a new study that outlines what Boston needs to be doing to better protect vulnerable communities like Charlestown and East Boston. This week, Boston firmed up plans to make all 47 miles of its coastline more resilient using vertical floodwalls, raised berms and dunes, strategically removing infrastructure, and more.
“We waste too much money on the dark hole of ‘carbon’ and not enough money on local conservation land and easements. Money should be spent conserving local suburban ecosystems and creating more state parks and state forests. Planting trees. The basics,” Jeff K. from Middleton said. “We can fight even what is ultimately a losing battle against rising seas for hundreds of years. We fortify areas where it makes sense and we retreat from more vulnerable areas. Low-lying areas can be made into parks, farms, and conservation land to handle the rising water.”
Elsewhere in Massachusetts, a dozen towns and cities have gotten the go-ahead to participate in a pilot program that would ban the use of fossil fuels in new buildings and major renovations — a move Mayor Michelle Wu is looking to make in Boston.
From mandated composting to improved public transit, readers had many suggestions on what policies local lawmakers should use to tackle climate change.
Some entries may be edited for length and clarity.
What, if anything, should be done on the local level to address climate change?
Compost and recycling
“Institute stronger regulations for composting. Businesses, schools, households, and all government institutions should compost. This is the easiest fix that people can help to save the environment without changing their lifestyle. It’s just a matter of throwing away compost in a separate bin.” — Deanne M., Andover
“Empower and incentivize small businesses, co-ops, and municipalities to adopt advanced recycling systems.” — Alex, Everett
“Offer free composting pickup to all residents, and compost bins at apartment buildings. Require larger businesses and restaurants to compost.” — Lynn, Watertown
“Reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road. Invest in public transit and protected bike lanes to expand transit alternatives. The only way to achieve our climate, environmental, and safety goals is to make roads more accessible and remove the well-documented inherent inefficiencies of single-occupancy vehicles.” — Peter G., Boston
“More renewable energy sources. More and better public transit. MBTA needs an overhaul and expansion. Faster and more reliable commuter rail would decrease car traffic. More dedicated bike lanes (with physical partitions).” — Jonathan, Newburyport
“1. Congestion charges in the city, 2. An aggressive program to restrict single-person car use, 3. Increase bus and cycle lanes with heavy policing, 4) FREE enhanced public transportation.” — Paul H., Roslindale
Prepare for rising sea levels
“Start building a sea wall at Deer Island. Anything else is a bandaid. Get real and start building. This is a federal project. Nothing that is being built along the harbor will stop the onslaught of water.” — Bob B., Newton
“The city must concentrate on making the right adaptations for higher sea levels. The development in the Seaport was pitched as resilient but regularly floods. How much will the city have to spend on mitigation and resilience because of the multi-million-dollar condos that have gone up there? Local carbon reductions are a drop in the bucket. It would be unfortunate for residents to be footing the bill when the houses built on sand wash away.” — Steve, Charlestown
“Boston (and possibly the entire U.S.) needs to stop allowing builders to erect buildings and houses close to waterways, be they oceans or rivers. This is particularly true in Boston where much of the city is built upon ‘reclaimed’ land. When the area around the New England Aquarium floods it is partially due to climate change and just as much due to the fact that the ‘shoreline’ in that area is artificial and used to extend further up State Street.” — Anonymous, Quincy
“Shut down all natural gas and coal plants. Build out wind and solar generation 24/7/365 for as long as possible. Replace all HVAC with heat pumps. We’re past the point where it’ll be comfortable and seamless to make the necessary changes, so everyone would do best to get themselves prepared to be uncomfortable. That’ll mean paying a prohibitive cost for energy, rationing electricity, etc. So many people talk about ‘making tough choices’ but that’s not at all true. The choices are the easy part but living or dying with the consequences of the choices is the hard part.” — Tucker, Brookline
“Better state incentives for solar, high-efficiency HVAC, heat pumps, insulation of homes, and conversion away from oil. Enhancing the electric grid and connecting to solar and wind will make things safer and reliable while helping climate change.” — Steve, Bodford
“Set an aggressive goal (date-wise) to 1. Source all of our energy needs as renewable, 2. Ban all non-renewable energy vehicles from Boston and other larger cities, 3. Incentives (and then outright bans) to convert homes and businesses to electric only.” — Julie, Lincoln
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinions.