PLEDGE NOW

How Will Boston Accommodate Sea Level Rise? New Report Suggests Canals, Wetlands

"Clarendon Canal." (Courtesy Michael Wang, Arlen Stawasz, and Dennis Carlberg)

“Clarendon Canal.” (Courtesy Michael Wang, Arlen Stawasz, and Dennis Carlberg)

What can a coastal city like Boston do to prepare for the effects of climate change and rising sea levels? Consider, for example, Back Bay, which was once a marsh and now sits just four feet above high tide. Climate experts say, over the next 75 years, sea levels could rise as much as seven and a half feet, which would swamp the neighborhood.

One proposal is to welcome the rising waters with a series of canals — which might give Boston some of the watery charm of Venice or Amsterdam. The idea is just one of many from some of Boston’s top urban planners, engineers and architects in a report released Tuesday by the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

Some of them are flashy — like transforming Boston into Venice on the Atlantic. Others are more basic, like building break-waters in Boston Harbor, or raising the Harborwalk along the waterfront to protect the city’s buildings. Whatever the solution, they remind us of the inescapable challenge of rising sea levels for cities like Boston.

Daily tidal fluctuations hide or reveal the topographical layers of the Harborwalk, creating an ever-changing landscape that interacts with the harbor rather than merely opposing it. Planting systems transition from mostly dry to increasingly more aquatic vegetation to adapt to rising sea levels. Perspective view of dune park. (Courtesy Arrowstreet and Halvorson Design Partnership)

Daily tidal fluctuations hide or reveal the topographical layers of the Harborwalk, creating an ever-changing landscape that interacts with the harbor rather than merely opposing it. Planting systems transition from mostly dry to increasingly more aquatic vegetation to adapt to rising sea levels. Perspective view of dune park. (Courtesy Arrowstreet and Halvorson Design Partnership)

Guest

Dennis Carlberg, director of sustainability at Boston University and co-chair of the Sustainability Council at the Urban Land Institute. He tweets @sustainableBU.

More

The Boston Globe: Report Offers Ideas For A Boston Beset By Rising Seas

  • “By the end of this century, the romance of Venice might be a lot closer to Boston than you’d expect — like just off Storrow Drive.”

WBUR: Boston Plans For ‘Near-Term Risk’ Of Rising Tides

  • “While many cities around the country grapple with drought and excessive heat this year, city planners in Boston have something else on their minds: the prospect of rising water.”

Other stories from this show:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.

Host Meghna Chakrabarti introduces us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and brings us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.

  • Listen: Weekdays, 3 p.m. on 90.9 FM
  • Live Call-In: (800) 423-TALK
  • Listener Voicemail: (617) 358-0607
Most Popular
This site is best viewed with: Firefox | Internet Explorer 9 | Chrome | Safari