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Study Projects Impact of Climate Change on Massachusetts Economy

Hurricane Irene Approaches the Outer Banks
Courtesy NOAA
Hurricane Irene Approaches the Outer Banks

As much of the region is still recovering from the effects of last year’s tropical storm Irene, a new report outlines the effects of Climate Change on the Massachusetts economy, which includes projections of more frequent hurricanes. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard has more…

The report titled “Massachusetts’ Rising Economic Risks from Climate Change released by advocacy group the Better Future Project, discusses how changing weather atterns can lead to impacts on health, the economy, and the environment. Executive Director of the Better Future Project Craig Altemose says that he thinks that local effects of climate change are not well communicated to average Americans.

The study was authored by Robert Repetto, a Senior Fellow from the United Nations Foundation’s Climate and Energy program. Repetto writes that continued global warming caused by carbon-dioxide emissions will increase the rate of severe storms, including hurricanes. Repetto says in the report that “Category 4 and 5 storms would be expected to increase by 80 percent by 2080, or by roughly one percent per year.”

Massachusetts has not encountered a category 4 or 5 hurricane before.

And an increased frequency in hurricanes in general can be very costly. Again, Better Future Project’s Craig Altemose.

The report also outlines risk to aquatic plants and animals. Warmer waters could aid harmful parasites, encourage toxic algae blooms, and endanger commercial fishing, including the region’s lobster harvest, and cod stocks. The report also indicates a greater risk of vector-borne illness, including lyme disease carried by ticks, and West Nile Virus transmitted by mosquitoes. Other impacts will be accelerated beach erosion, damage to coastal saltwater and brackish marshes, and damage to coastal infrastructure. Massachusetts has experienced many of these effects this year.

Not included in the report were affects on agriculture. The effects of the past spring’s early bloom and following frost are showing as a reduced apple crop in much of the region, especially New York state. Jon Clements, Extension Educator at UMass Amherst, says that if climate change continues to lead to more frequent violent storms and warmer springs, then growers may have to take special steps to manage the increased risk.

The report says that average temperatures recorded across Massachusetts’ border with New Hampshire have shown a 2.3 degree increase over the 20th Century average, and as the trend continues, the economic effects will become more pronounced.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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