Blue Mass Group, 11/16/16

In the children’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes¸ we are introduced to a monarch who parades around in the nude as if nothing is wrong. No one dares say anything, until one child voices the obvious. As The King Tide made a return to flood Boston’s waterfront this week, it is a reminder that we cannot afford to be silent. We must be the child and voice the obvious: climate change is real, and presents a serious threat to Boston’s future. And with that threat, comes opportunity.

The King Tide is just one symptom of the impact of climate change on our city. When it came to Boston Harbor in October the tides were predicted to be 12.2 to 12.3 feet high. They ended up being about 12.8 feet high. A report released earlier this year by The Boston Research Advisory Group details the perils we face if we do not move quickly to address the dangers brought on by climate change. By 2050, The King Tide could be our normal tide and in the worst-case scenario, sea levels could rise more than 10 feet by the end of the century. This would be more than enough to submerge Downtown Boston. The report goes on to details threats beyond the tide, pointing out that in the past century, temperatures in the Northeast have risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit, with a potential to increase over 10 degrees in the next century. By 2070 we could exceed 90 degrees for 90 days a year, as opposed to the average of 11 days a year we have now.

That’s the threat. Here’s the opportunity: the Massachusetts economy stands to reap significant rewards from tackling the challenges of climate change. By harnessing the power of our world-renowned innovation community, we have already begun to benefit. The clean energy sector here in the Commonwealth is already responsible for creating over 98,000 jobs, 6,400 companies, and $11billion in investments. With further investments in solar, wind, hydroelectricity, energy storage, and energy efficiency, we can help reduce our carbon emissions while simultaneously creating jobs and growing our economy. Those benefits are on top of money saved from lower costs on energy, and reducing the financial risks of climate-related natural disasters.

The King Tide is here to tell us that the Emperor has no clothes. This summer’s drought, superstorm Sandy, and the many other extreme events we have seen in recent years are all delivering the same message. The impacts of climate change are too severe for us to continue to pretend we are not seeing the obvious. Meanwhile, the chance to further the game-changing, innovative, and ambitious work in the Commonwealth’s clean energy sector is what we should be striving for. Let’s be the child: call out climate change, and reap the benefits of action.

Sebastian Zapata

Program Director

The Alliance for Business Leadership