Massachusetts is already struggling to keep pace with emergency housing needs for migrants, many fleeing unsafe political conditions in other countries. A new report from the state’s climate chief warns that the Commonwealth also needs to prepare to receive climate migrants and refugees from inside and outside of the US as global weather conditions become more unstable.
The report, released Wednesday by Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer, recommends a slew of policy and infrastructural changes to address the climate crisis in Massachusetts. Many build on findings from the 2022 Massachusetts Statewide Climate Change Assessment and the ResilientMass State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan.
These earlier assessments identify “climate-driven in-migration from other regions of the United States as well as migration from other areas of the world to the Northeast as an urgent concern with a major level of consequence,” Hoffer writes.
The Northeast is projected to receive significant migration from people fleeing areas impacted by severe heat waves, drought, storms, crop loss, water scarcity, and other impacts of climate change, the report states.
At the same time, the report notes, “the climate in Massachusetts and New England is already changing.” Coastal communities within the state are bracing for sea level rise and worsening storm conditions as the years go on. As some communities consider the prospect of managed retreat from their coastlines, experts warn that a lack of strong state regional planning could complicate internal migration from coastal municipalities.
The delicate inland ecosystem can face a domino effect prompted by migration patterns, the 2022 assessment notes. For instance, migration away from coastlines could require new inland development, which could impact the health and scale of state forests.
These climate-based migration pressures mean the state and its health and environmental agencies “should begin planning now—and partner with municipalities—to prepare to receive this migration,” Hoffer wrote. That means planning for costs to provide additional services and additional demands for housing related to migration, while anticipating that broader environmental changes can lead to physical and mental health declines and risk state assets like critical health care infrastructure.
Migration prompted by the climate, according to the 2022 assessment, is generally more abrupt than “routine” changes in migration due to factors like economic development or decline.
As with much discussion of migration to Massachusetts – which has come up in the context of education policies to support undocumented students as well as the current influx of out-of-state migrants – the new report notes that the Bay State may view the migration as a boost if it can plan for the growth.
“There are also economic development opportunities as this migration may help reverse trends in regional population decline,” Hoffer wrote.
But comprehensive planning for these population trends is non-negotiable, as large numbers of people suddenly displaced can overwhelm municipalities at the front line of unexpected migration, whether they are climate refugees or the current wave of migrants needing emergency shelter.
“Extreme weather events in other locations can cause immediate and crisis-level impacts on cities and towns in the Commonwealth as Holyoke experienced when families fleeing the devastating impacts of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico sought refuge there,” Hoffer writes. “Beginning the process of planning now will help communities to prepare and build the human capacity to respond with skill and compassion to these events, which will become more common in the coming decades.”
Running the numbers: During the Sumner Tunnel closure from July 5 to August 31, the MBTA improved service on the Blue Line, eliminated fares, and offered a much quicker ride downtown than driving. Even so, T officials say the number of riders was disappointing, both during the closure and after.
– Orange Line ridership increased dramatically during the tunnel closure and remained fairly strong afterwards. Another surprise: weekend travel on most transit options soared during the closure, in some cases surpassing weekday ridership. Read more.
Big wage theft settlement: The MGM casino in Springfield agrees to a $6.8 million wage theft settlement with the attorney general’s office, with $461,587 going to compensate workers and nearly $6.4 million going to the state. Read more.
Climate report: The Healey administration releases a climate report that calls for a decarbonization cost tally and recommends a number of initiatives, including doing away with short-hop air flights to nearby places like New York City. Read more.
Stop clock change: Karin Johnson, a professor of neurology at the UMass Chan Medical School-Baystate, backs the push for permanent Standard Time. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Massachusetts plummets in business climate rankings. (Gloucester Times)
Lawmakers are increasingly frustrated by the Healey administration’s communication regarding the ongoing shelter crisis. (Worcester Telegram)
The Boston City Council voted 9-3 to approve an ordinance that allows police officers to enforce a tent ban, and the Wu administration plans a sweep on Monday. (GBH News)
The city should rename Faneuil Hall, named for a slave trader, according to a Boston City Council resolution passed Wednesday. It’s a nonbinding move, since the power to change the name rests with the Public Facilities Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor. (Boston Globe)
The Dorchester Reporter reviews the votes of the three City Council at-large incumbents on grants for the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, or BRIC.
A gun shop scheduled to open near two day care centers and a charter school in Lawrence is facing pushback from neighbors, and Mayor Brian DePena is requesting a delay for additional study. (GBH)
Rates of breast cancer are 22 percent higher in parts of Cape Cod than the rest of the country, substantially higher than the rate across Massachusetts. (Cape Cod Times)
Officials say at least 16 people were killed in a mass shooting at a restaurant and bowling alley in Lewiston, Maine. Police are searching for a firearms instructor and have urged residents and students at Bates College to lock themselves inside. (Associated Press)
Republicans finally settle on a new speaker: Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a far right lawyer who voted against certifying results of the 2020 presidential election. (Washington Post)
US Rep. Jim McGovern says he is “deeply concerned and also frustrated” at the US State Department’s lack of progress getting American citizens out of Gaza. (MassLive)
Massachusetts isn’t the only state cutting taxes. North Dakota and Oregon have also joined in, even as states face the possibility of falling revenues. (Stateline)
Longtime Worcester incumbents on the City Council are facing a challenge from a group of progressives. (GBH)
Ford and the UAW have reached a tentative strike settlement that would provide record pay increase for workers. (Reuters)
Students at several campuses around the state staged rallies as part of a national protest in support of Palestinians. (Boston Globe)
Jill Medvedow is stepping down after 25 years heading the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. (WBUR)
Advocates are calling for more transparency about the decision of Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox to revisit an internal affairs finding against a police captain, a move that cleared the officer of the most serious allegations he was facing. (Boston Globe)
Sexual misconduct lawsuits are piling up against a former Framinghan rheumatologist. (MetroWest Daily News)
The Telegram & Gazette in Worcester talked to Sen. Ryan Fattman and his wife, Stephanie Fattman, the register of probate in Worcester County, on Friday about their campaign finance settlement with the attorney general’s office. But the paper held the story until the attorney general released all the paperwork on Tuesday. (Media Nation)
Gay Community News, a Boston-based paper and one of the first outlets to cover the HIV/AIDS crisis, launched 50 years ago and left behind a legacy of covering the issues of the gay and lesbian community. (WBUR)