On Monday, April 24, 2017, the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) welcomed Bud Ris — Co-Chair, Climate Preparedness Working Group, Boston Green Ribbon Commission, and Senior Climate Advisor, Barr Foundation– to present a lecture entitled “Climate Ready Boston: Planning for the Challenges Ahead.”
“Boston was once the dirtiest harbor in the country; now it is the cleanest urban harbor in the United States,” Ris said, beginning his talk by referencing a past sustainability success that can serve as a model and inspiration for future challenges. For combating climate change “there are two big tracks: the mitigation side, cutting greenhouse gasses to reduce the problem, and now there is adaptation or the climate-preparedness/resilience side,” he continued, laying out the essential steps in making the city climate ready: climate consensus, vulnerability assessments, and resilience initiatives.
Ris emphasized his focus on the research and analysis which he sees as essential to the city’s preparation for future effects of climate change. Though noting that current projections of sea level rises and potential flooding in the future could compromise up to $85 billion of Boston’s land and built environment, he acknowledged the importance of remaining optimistic. “Stop depressing people,” Ris said of those trying to communicate the future effects of climate change. He noted that Boston has “sprang into high gear” when it comes to climate preparedness and that solutions can be found and implemented. To do this, Ris said that “Boston should coordinate public investment to adapt infrastructure to future climate conditions.” Throughout his lecture, Ris discussed several studies, projections, and possible solutions, many coordinated and completed by the City of Boston and surrounding universities. Beyond what the city already has planned and committed to, Ris sees an additional role for building owners and renters in adapting to the climate. “We have to create value around building resilience,” Ris said, “Green buildings are already commanding higher interest and rents, and resilience should also be re-assessed.”
Ris’ lecture was presented as a part of a week of climate change-related events called “Climate Week,” organized by the Harvard University Center for the Environment in cooperation with a wide variety of partner institutions across the Harvard campus. This week-long program gives the Harvard community, as well as the interested public, exposure to some of the best scholarship and thinking related to climate change at the university.