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Long Now Boston: Climate Change and the Future of the Boston Coastline

  • One Broadway, CIC Cambridge Havana, 5th Floor Cambridge, MA 02142 USA (map)

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Boston was founded in 1630, and soon became a colonial trading hub due to its protected coastline and strategic location. As we near the 4th century mark in Boston’s history, that coastline may experience a dramatic shift as a consequence of global climate change.

Paul Kirshen and Kirk Bosma are among the regions leading experts in climate change and the looming risks to coastal communities. In May 2018, the Sustainable Solutions Lab at the University of Massachusetts Boston released a major study of the Feasibility of Harbor-wide Barrier Systems for Boston, led by Paul Kirshen with support from a large team including Kirk Bosma. The study concluded that Shore-based climate adaptation solutions have significant advantages over harbor-wide strategies for Boston, but also noted: “If the global community is able to dramatically decrease emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, the amount of SLR that Boston will experience can be constrained to the lower end of the future projections.”

Paul and Kirk will draw upon their extensive experience to lead a Long Now Boston Community Conversation for November 5 on Climate Change and the implications for Boston in the coming century. The conversation will include:

  • Climate change forecasts and the implications for coastal communities.

  • Key modeling tools and approaches for gauging risks and assisting coastal communities in planning for the future.

  • What might we expect for Boston and coastal New England in the coming decades?

  • What are the most promising adaption and mitigation measures?

  • What might Boston and the New England coastline look like in a century – how might this affect demographics, economic activity and social conditions?

  • How does this knowledge inform our understanding of global implications and very long term trends?


Paul Kirshen, Ph.D., is a Professor in the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston and serves as the Academic Director of its Sustainable Solutions Lab.  Paul has 30 years of experience in complex, interdisciplinary research related to water resources management, and climate variability and change. He holds Sc.B., MS, and PhD degrees in civil engineering with an emphasis on systems applications.  His interest in climate change is focused on the integrated vulnerabilities of built, natural, social, and economic systems to climate change and sea level rise (SLR) and the development of adaptation strategies to these stresses. He uses a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods. He currently has research efforts in metro Boston, NH, coastal MA, and other areas. A major project is on environmental justice and climate change adaptation in East Boston.

Kirk F. Bosma, PE, is a Senior Coastal Engineer and Team Leader of the Coastal Sciences, Engineering & Planning team at Woods Hole Group. He manages projects and develops engineering solutions related to coastal structure design, beach nourishment, beach management, inlet stabilization, water quality, environmental permitting, impacts of offshore dredging, marsh restoration, climate change planning, and wave, tide, and current data collection. His expertise includes habitat restoration, shoreline protection, and climate change planning projects and specializes in applying numerical models to optimize engineering designs and reduce overall project life cycle costs. He has developed and applied the latest data and numerical methods for climate change vulnerability assessments and developed comprehensive coastal flood risk assessments that incorporate storm surge risk coupled with increased precipitation and sea level rise. He also developed gray, green, and hybrid coastal engineering adaptations for fostering urban and rural resiliency in a cost-effective approach.

Doors open at 6pm. Conversation begins at 7pm.

Earlier Event: November 5
Action Design Boston
Later Event: November 6
KSA Lunch & Learn: CENTRAL IP and Law