Climate Matters: How New England is being impacted by our changing climate

The world around us is changing fast as the environment’s delicate balance is facing unprecedented challenges from climate change.

“Here in the Boston area, we’re just coming off our warmest July on record and that actually mirrors what we’re seeing around the globe,” said Rachel Cleetus, Ph.D., Policy Director for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “We know this is not just about some distant future. This is about changes we are seeing here and now.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, recently released a report highlighting the increase in temperature as one of its main concerns. “Here in Massachusetts, by mid-century, we could see about a month of heat index days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. By the end of the century, about two months.”

The average temperature in Massachusetts is up 2.8 degrees since 1970. that compares to a national increase of 2.5 degrees.

Climate scientists worry most about the weather extremes that come with these increases in averages.

Jennifer Francis, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, is concerned about how the region will deal with an increased number of heavy precipitation events. She told Boston 25 News Chief Meteorologist Kevin Lemanowicz that there is 7% more water vapor in the atmosphere than there was back in the 1970s.

“That moisture plays a big role in how our climate is changing, it feeds those precipitation events” added Francis.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is very concerned about the changes in the state’s climate that he’s seen so far. He told Lemanowicz in a one-on-one interview that, “The game along the coast has changed. The rising seas levels, water temperatures, the frequency of the storms, and the severity of the storms and that surge that comes with all that – it’s a game-changer.”

The ocean around Massachusetts is warming and rising very quickly, according to Jennifer Seavey, Ph.D., Director of the Shoals Marine Laboratory. “The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans, so things are changing rapidly here.”

Those changing circumstances have an impact on the day to day lives of New Englanders.

Meteorologist Vicki Graff found out that lobsters are moving offshore sooner in search of colder waters which is requiring lobstermen to travel further out to sea. “Different gear, longer lines, more gas, it’s more dangerous to go further offshore,” added Seavey.

Policymakers like Boston Mayor Martin Walsh are factoring an uncertain future into their planning. Boston 25 Morning News Meteorologist Shiri Spear reported on how the city is now redeveloping parks along the harbor so they also function as sea walls.

Pointing at a section of the Seaport’s recently opened Martin’s Park, which honors Martin Richard, one of the three victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, Walsh explained “It’s doesn’t look like a sea wall. It’s disguised by trees and bushes and plants and things like that, but what it does do, in the case of a bad storm it would really serve a different function here.”

Another concern is how human health will be challenged by climate change. It’s expected pollen levels will surge as more and more carbon dioxide gets put into the atmosphere. That’s bad news for allergy sufferers and people with asthma.

Boston 25 News Meteorologist Jason Brewer reported on other consequences for human health, including greater prevalence of insect born diseases such as EEE and Lyme disease.

Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Co-Director for Climate Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health said most of us could benefit immediately by adopting environmental habits, like riding a bike or walking instead of driving, or eating more of a plant-based diet instead of red meat.

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