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Bridge Street Chatham Flooding

APCC Takes Action on Climate Change

Under the Biden administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is “restoring the role of science in addressing the climate crisis,” and as of March 2021, its climate change website is back.

Scientific data shows that the northeastern U.S.—including Cape Cod—will experience some of the most dramatic increases in sea level rise. The region can also expect increasingly warmer temperatures, more droughts and an increased frequency in extreme weather. The likely impacts on the environment, human health and safety, and local economies are serious and are projected to be very costly.

Despite potential resistance by political leaders to address climate change on the national level, APCC remains fully committed in our advocacy for regional actions and policies that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and we will continue to strongly push for measures that help us mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts.

The following are some of APCC’s current climate change initiatives:

Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative

Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative: APCC is a founding member of the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative, a climate action campaign for the Cape and islands, uniting the varied expertise and experience of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket organizations to address reducing the region’s carbon footprint. To facilitate, the Climate Collaborative organizes Net Zero Roundtable Conferences that bring regional leaders together to network and lay a course for climate action.

Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition: APCC participates in the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition, a coalition of government agencies, business leaders, engineers, architects, energy and environmental organizations advocating for the state to establish an integrated plan to manage the impacts of climate change. The coalition’s efforts include supporting existing climate management initiatives and advocating for their expansion through increased state funding.

Cape Cod Coastal Resilience Project: APCC partnered with the Cape Cod Commission on a three-year grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a tool and public outreach program to investigate the environmental and socio-economic effects of local and regional coastal resiliency strategies on Cape Cod. The project identifed coastal vulnerabilities, identify technologies and strategies to address those vulnerabilities, evaluate costs and risks of those options, and, with public input, choose a path forward for our region.

Except for a leveling off between the 1940s and 1970s, Earth’s surface temperatures have increased since 1880. The last decade has brought the temperatures to the highest levels ever recorded. The graph shows global annual surface temperatures relative to 1951-1980 mean temperatures. As shown by the red line, long-term trends are more apparent when temperatures are averaged over a five-year period. Image credit: NASA

Evaluating the Effects of Sea Level Rise on Cape Cod’s Aquifer: Through a grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, APCC commissioned a U.S. Geological Survey study to model the effects of sea level rise on the mid-Cape’s ground water system. The study, “Potential Effects of Sea-Level Rise on the Depth to Saturated Sediments of the Sagamore and Monomoy Flow Lenses on Cape Cod, Massachusetts,” found that rising sea level could potentially raise the water table and decrease depths to groundwater in some areas, which would adversely affect public and private infrastructure. The study can assist local and regional planning for these vulnerable areas.

APCC’s Restoration Coordination Center: APCC established the Restoration Coordination Center to assist towns with implementation of environmental restoration projects by providing coordination, project management and technical assistance. The list of restoration projects complied by APCC includes coastal resilience projects, which will help protect the Cape’s environment and inhabitants from impacts of climate change and hazard events such as hurricanes, coastal storms and flooding. APCC also conducted an assessment of Cape Cod salt marshes to identify those with the potential to migrate inland and adjust to rising sea levels.

What is Climate Change?

When fossil fuels are burned for energy, carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere. The more fossil fuels we burn, the greater the buildup of carbon dioxide. This buildup of carbon dioxide acts like a blanket in the atmosphere that traps heat around the world, preventing it from escaping into space. As more carbon dioxide builds up, the blanket gets larger and thicker. This heat-trapping blanket is disrupting the climate.

This disruption of the climate is adversely impacting the Earth’s land and water in different ways, including increased droughts, more catastrophic storms, ocean acidification and an increase in average temperatures on Earth. One consequence of the Earth’s rising temperatures is the melting of vast amounts of ice stored in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Warming also causes thermal expansion of the ocean. Both effects—melting of ice and thermal expansion—are causing sea levels to rise worldwide.

This 3-D visualization, from a new NASA supercomputer project, reveals in startling detail the complex patterns in which carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, decreases and moves around the globe over the course of September 2014 to September 2015.

Global Carbon Emissions-Fossil-Fuels 1900-2011

Source: Boden, T.A., Marland, G., and Andres R.J. (2015). Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2015. Image credit: EPA

Carbon dioxide plays a significant role in trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere. The gas is released from human activities like burning fossil fuels, and the concentration of carbon dioxide moves and changes through the seasons. Using observations from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) satellite, scientists developed a model of the behavior of carbon in the atmosphere from Sept. 1, 2014, to Aug. 31, 2015. Scientists can use models like this one to better understand and predict where concentrations of carbon dioxide could be especially high or low, based on activity on the ground.
Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/K. Mersmann, M. Radcliff, producers

Check out these disturbing but amazing visualizations on disappearing sea ice, rising sea levels, carbon dioxide emissions and rising global temperatures from NASA.

Cape Cod sea level rise viewer produced by the Cape Cod Commission.

Cape Cod Sea Level Rise Viewer