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Special Event on October 2! More info below.

Boston’s Green Spaces: Beautiful, Beneficial, Wicked Smaht

Dewey Square Park, Boston
Dewey Square Park, Boston

On Thursday, October 2, Dewey Square Park (pictured) near South Station will host a free public event called Wicked Smaht! Celebrating Climate Leaders in Boston. From 11:00 am to 1:30 pm, find a flock of colorful ostrich statues, talk with scientists, share your stories of climate action, and take pictures with Ozzie!

Take a picture with the PaparOzzie!
Meet Ozzie
A curious ostrich who refuses to stick his head in the sand...

Climate science can be difficult to understand, and it may often seem like a scary or uncertain problem. It has been said that situations, like these, cause ostriches to stick their heads in the sand. Although this behavior is actually a myth and ostriches don’t really do this, we as human beings, sometimes act this way when we confront something scary or uncertain... like climate change.

In a way, Ozzie represents the uncertainty we may all feel about climate change. However, he also keeps his head above ground by being open-minded, making observations about the world around him, asking questions, looking at scientific evidence, and trying to find solutions.  Follow Ozzie on his climate change journey and check out his posters around Boston!

Finally, take a picture with the PaparOzzie app to be entered to win a miniature stuffed Ozzie!

What are people in Boston doing to fight climate change?
Boston is truly a climate leader when it comes to adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change. The Boston area has many green spaces and park systems that absorb carbon dioxide, reduce runoff from intense rainfall, buffer the impacts of coastal flooding, and reduce the urban heat island effect. In addition, Boston is encouraging bike commuting and supporting development of renewable energy sources. Learn more in our resources and map section!
  • Climate change is altering the timing of seasonal changes, putting pressure on flowering plants and their pollinators. Green spaces provide habitat for bees and other beneficial species that may be especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
    Bee in Boston Public Garden
    Bee in Boston Public Garden
  • As climate changes and sea level rises, sections of the Charles River near Boston Harbor will flood more frequently during big storms. Placing parks instead of buildings at the water’s edge minimizes flooding damage and helps reduce water pollution.
    North Point Park, Cambridge
    North Point Park, Cambridge
  • A big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is electricity for heating and cooling buildings. Green roofs insulate in winter and cool in summer, reducing energy use. Norman B. Leventhal Park is a giant green roof atop an underground parking garage.
    Norman B. Leventhal Park, Boston
    Norman B. Leventhal Park, Boston
  • Parks and forested areas like those in the Emerald Necklace make communities more resilient to effects of climate change. For example, intense storms are projected to become more frequent, but parks reduce those storms’ impacts by soaking up rainwater.
    Emerald Necklace park system map
    Emerald Necklace park system map
  • Buildings and paved surfaces accumulate heat, intensifying local effects of climate change. Green spaces like those of the Emerald Necklace park system retain less heat. The trees also remove over 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year!
    Arnold Arboretum, part of the Emerald Necklace
    Arnold Arboretum, part of the Emerald Necklace
  • Boston’s Climate Action Plan includes increasing bicycle commutes in Boston by 10% by the year 2020. Boston already has plenty of bike lanes, like this one along the Charles River, but plans on building even more.
  • Riding a bike 10 miles per day instead of driving reduces individuals’ CO2 emissions by 1 ton per year. This volume of CO2 is roughly the size of 2 TD Gardens.
  • In the United States, transportation accounts for about 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Although this sector includes ships, aircraft, trains, trucks, and other vehicles, cars are the largest source of greenhouse gases.
  • Solar cells are made of materials that absorb the sun’s light and convert it into an electrical current.
    Rooftop Solar Panels
    Rooftop Solar Panels
  • Other types of renewable energy technologies are wind turbines and hydroelectric dams, which convert wind and water motion into electricity.
    Renewable Energy
    Renewable Energy
  • Renewable Energy Technologies have improved dramatically over the years. Researchers continue to increase the efficiency, durability, and cost-effectiveness of solar, wind, water, and tidal sources of energy.
    Solar at Night
    Solar at Night
Explore Boston's Green Spaces

Boston offers a wealth of green spaces to explore and enjoy. Some parks are individually maintained while others are parts of park systems such the Emerald Necklace and Rose Kennedy Greenway. Come cruise the bike paths, splash in the spray pools, watch the wildlife, and relax beneath the trees.

Information Information Information Information
So, climate change is real. What does it mean for Boston?
Boston Skyline
Boston Skyline
  • Warmer, more acidic ocean water could mean a change in Boston’s fishing industry.
  • Rising sea levels and more intense, frequent rainstorms may cause increased flooding on Boston’s shores.
  • When summers are hot, so are cities. Hotter summers will increase the urban heat island effect in Boston.
  • A changing climate could alter the growing season of local foods.
Climate Change is Happening.

...And that means changes in Boston and New England overall. We have observed and can expect warmer average temperatures, shifting ranges of species, heavier precipitation in the winter, more heat waves in the summer, and rising sea levels. Luckily, Massachusetts is already working on adapting to these changes and helping to slow climate change itself. Browse some of the changes that the Northeast may face!

  • Sea walls like this prevent giant storm waves from splashing onto land. Cities can also use sandbags, sand dunes, or parks to protect their shores from sea level rise.
  • Local organizations like The Boston Harbor Association are already thinking about sea level rise. This map depicts which places in Boston would flood after a storm surge with 2-7 feet of additional sea level rise.
  • Boston's Long Wharf has already experienced unprecedented flooding.
  • Combined with drought, extended hot summer weather can damage trees in and around Boston that rely on milder summer conditions.
  • Heat waves are a public health issue. Hot days can reduce air quality and cause heat stroke and exhaustion in vulnerable populations.
  • Hotter summer weather may increase our use of electricity for cooling. Overuse of electricity could stress our energy infrastructure and release even more greenhouse gases!
  • Intense winter storms affect us all. What costs are associated with winter storms?
  • Because precipitation is more likely, warmer winters will mean rain in Boston. This will be an economic challenge for winter ski and recreation resorts in New England.
  • Some parts of the globe may likely experience decreased precipitation, but not Boston! Boston’s heavy storms will likely occur more in the winter than in the summer season.
  • Bostonians may need to take greater precaution against diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes in the spring, summer, and fall.
    People in the park
    People in the park
  • Greater numbers of mosquitoes may stick around longer in Massachusetts.
  • Hemlock woolly adelgids are invasive pests that destroy Hemlock forests.
    Dead hemlock trees
    Dead hemlock trees

Get The Facts

How can I take action?

We’ve gotten this question many times. There are steps you can take as an individual to reduce your contribution to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Using less energy is key – in how you get around (avoid cars and planes), in heating or cooling your home (use heat and A/C less), in the electricity you use (turn things off, buy devices that consume less electricity), in the foods you eat (red meat and dairy production tend to produce far more greenhouse gas). Also, it helps to produce less trash and to recycle more. Using renewable energy can help a lot.

Many of us have opportunities at work to make a difference in shaping our workplaces and their policies. The same principles apply – use less energy, use fewer resources, recycle waster, use renewable energy.

We all have a responsibility as citizens to make our concerns known to our elected officials. While writing or calling an official’s office may seem like a chore, most of them really do care what people think. If you’re concerned about climate change or about particular policy decisions facing our government, contact your elected officials, and make sure you know the candidates’ views when voting.

There are many resources online that can help you out. Here are just a couple to get you started:

How were flooding levels on the ostriches determined?

The flooding elevations (now, in 2050, and 2100) found on each of the 8 individual ostriches found around Boston has been carefully determined as described below.

The elevation for each ostrich's location was determined using the City of Boston’s 2009 LIDAR data (LIDAR stands for light detection and ranging). The LIDAR data was collected by the City using a sensor on an aircraft, and has the 1 meter horizontal resolution and 15 cm vertical resolution so the exact elevation of the ostrich can be determined with respect to a known vertical reference elevation, or datum, specifically NAVD88 (see below).

The flooding elevations were determined as described below:

Baseline + MHHW + 100-year flood + sea level rise

In other words, the average sea-level would be at the elevation shown on the ostrich if a really major storm hit at high tide, along with sea level rise associated with global warming. The levels shown do not consider the additional height of waves.

-- NAVD88 is the North American Vertical Datum established in 1998 as a baseline. It is currently the most commonly accepted vertical reference elevation used throughout the United States.

-- Mean Higher High Water (MHHW) is the average height of the higher of the two daily high tides over a 19-year period. For Boston, this is 4.8 feet above NAVD88.

-- The 100-year flood level is the height of the expected storm surge expected to occur once every 100 years, or which has a 1% chance of occurring in any particular year. This height is unrelated to sea level rise due to global warming, and is not expected to increase. FEMA determined this height to be an additional 4.6 feet above the tidal height.

--Today, sea level rise is defined as 0 feet. The current 100-year flood level is shown.

--In 2050, sea level is predicted to be 1.7 feet (52 cm) higher than today based on an upper bound of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) temperature projections for three different emission scenarios (Vermeer and Rahmstorf, 2009; figure 6). This upper bound is consistent with currently observed carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise.

--In 2100, sea level rise is predicted to be 4.7 feet (143 cm) higher than today based on an average estimate for emission scenario A1Fl (Vermeer and Rahmstorf, 2009; figure 6).

What causes climate change?

Many different factors cause climate to shift. Changes in ocean circulation, life on Earth, gases in the atmosphere, changes in the sun’s radiation, and geological activity such as volcanic eruptions and plate tectonic movement can all affect the climate. Some of these changes occur naturally and happen over hundreds, thousands, or millions of years, while others are caused by human activity and occur over centuries or decades.

When did human-caused climate change begin?

Human beings began using fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases a few centuries ago, and scientists were able to make the first climate change predictions all the way back in the 19th century. However, it has been in the last 50 years that carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has risen most severely. Like the glass in a greenhouse, carbon dioxide (along with water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide) allows light from the Sun to reach Earth while preventing the Earth’s heat from radiating back out into space. Without these greenhouse gases, our planet would be cold and unlivable. While changes in atmospheric gases occur naturally over long periods of time, scientists are concerned that the recent increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could have unpredictable effects.

How are humans affecting climate change?

When scientists discuss climate and human activity, they are usually referring to what happens when people burn fossil fuels for transportation, electricity, and industrial uses. They provide the energy that we use to warm our houses, turn on light bulbs, make cars go, etc. It takes millions of years for the carbon from ancient organisms to become fossil fuels, but burning them gives off carbon dioxide, water, and other by-products and greenhouse gases in seconds. 

Why do so many scientists agree?

Scientists agree about human-caused climate change because it is the best way to make sense of the evidence and observations made over the last century. Thousands of independent scientists have considered other explanations such as solar output or volcanic eruptions for the increase in global temperatures, but these theories do not account for all the evidence collected.

Scientists have additionally observed changes in the past century—such as higher amounts of CO2 in the air, rising sea levels, quickly melting glaciers, and higher average surface temperatures on Earth.

Indeed, the Earth goes through natural cycles. Ocean currents, such as El Niño or La Niña, volcanic eruptions and changes in radiation from the sun can affect the Earth’s weather patterns for a given amount of time, generally within the span of a few years. But the sustained, nearly century-long patterns of higher carbon dioxide count in the atmosphere, surface temperature, sea levels, and glacier melt have pointed to something tied inextricably to our burning of fossil fuels over the last 150 years.

Where is climate change happening?

Climate change is a global problem, but different places will experience different outcomes of climate change. While sea level rise, changes in precipitation, and warmer seasons are in Boston's future, much of the American southwest, for instance, will experience more problems with drought and water scarcity.

Who are climate scientists?

Climate scientists study, well, climate. Climate is the average weather over a long period of time, like 20 or 30 years. People often confuse climate with weather, which changes daily. 

Climate science is challenging to study because it is measured all over the globe, over long periods of time, and is affected by many factors. Scientists in this field investigate aspects of oceanography, geology, paleontology, and chemistry. For example, these scientists might look at the rings of trees or ancient ice cores to find clues about our past climate. They also study human-recorded weather data over long periods of time. Analyzing these clues, scientists can create models to make mathematical predictions about what may happen in the future.

Ask us a question!

Have a burning question about our methods, climate change, or this project in general? Ask us a question and we'll do our best to respond promptly!

Ask us a question!

Have a burning question about our methods, climate change, or this project in general? Ask us a question and we'll do our best to respond promptly!

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