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Mitigating Climate Change in Massachusetts: Policy Recommendations

Introduction

Problem Statement

Climate change is an acute problem that involves a number of harmful effects on the environment and living beings on Earth. The consequences include extreme weather events, rising maximum and minimum temperature, poor air and water quality, sea-level rise, heat waves, shrinking glaciers, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, health risks, and economic implications (“Climate change,” 2021). With the impact of global warming becoming more visible, governments, communities, public health agencies, and advocacy groups attempt to address the issue and take action to minimize the adverse effects of climate change. The purpose of this report is to discuss and recommend long-term and short-term responses for the state of Massachusetts to undertake to mitigate climate change.

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The state of Massachusetts is facing climate- and health-related hazards resulting from rising sea levels, increasing precipitation, flooding, and growing numbers of hot summer days. As the United States Environmental Protection Agency (2016) reports, the commonwealth “has warmed by more than two degrees (F) in the last century,” which is nearly twice as much as other states (p. 1). Hence, a policy change is proposed for Massachusetts to address global warming and control human-caused interference with the climate.

Policy Change Proposal

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a critical factor causing the increases in the temperature of the Earth’s lower atmosphere and surface. According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (n.d.), Commonwealth’s policies regarding GHG emission reduction prove effective “despite a 14% growth in population and 24% growth in vehicle miles traveled” (para. 1). However, 65% of the state’s emissions primarily come from vehicles, offices, and households, not industrial and agricultural operations (Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, n.d.). The policy proposed is based on this characteristic and involves implementing green technologies for residential and office buildings.

Short-term responses include installing renewables, insulating roofs and facades, improving ventilation and plumbing, as well as enhancing technical aspects of houses and office buildings. However, such changes have an isolated character, and long-term objectives should be outlined and incorporated as well. Sustainable housing principles should be applied to the design of new buildings. As per Darko et al. (2018), a consideration for “natural ventilation, application of energy‐efficient lighting systems, optimizing building orientation and configuration, … heating, ventilation, and air‐conditioning system, and … water‐efficient appliances” is needed (p. 140). The identified green technologies can help the state improve the energy efficiency of buildings and reduce future greenhouse gas emissions coming from the primary sources, thus lowering health risks and mitigating climate change.

Scope of Impact

The building sector in Massachusetts will be affected by the proposed policy change. Businesses and people involved in residential and commercial construction projects and infrastructure work will have to comply with the guidelines and principles identified by the policy change. Both high- and low-rise sectors will be involved in presenting housing solutions based on green technology use. Furthermore, energy-efficient and cost-effective office buildings should be provided through commercial construction. According to Krosnick and MacInnis (2020), 75% of Americans “favor increasing the energy efficiency of new buildings” (Increasing energy efficiency section, para. 3). Hence, most of the Massachusetts community will be affected by the policy change aiming at inclusive community planning and sustainable decision making.

Potential Alternatives

One of the potential alternatives addressing the problem of greenhouse gas emissions is reducing the transportation footprint in Massachusetts. Transition to environmentally friendly vehicles is one of the strategies that can improve the situation (Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, n.d.). Moreover, sustainable public transportation and a proactive approach will assist in reducing GHG emissions and can involve using alternative fuel technology, a cap-and-trade system, and efficient urban planning (Hall et al., 2017). Pedestrian- and bike-friendly design will make infrastructure more accessible and improve mobility while contributing to the sustainability of Massachusetts.

Another alternative is reducing GHG emissions by shifting to renewable sources of energy for heating and electricity generation. As Penney (2021) reports, “coal releases more carbon dioxide than any other form of power generation,” and reducing the use of coal-fired power allows for producing fewer greenhouse gases (para. 5). Alternatively, power plants based on renewable energy, such as wind or solar, imply relatively low operating costs. Even though building them can be costly, no fuel purchases are needed once the construction process is completed.

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Potential Outcomes

Potential outcomes of the proposed policy change must be discussed. The use of green technologies for residential and office buildings has a number of benefits for the environment and community. In particular, they include the mitigation of global warming effect, cost reduction, increased productivity, improved public health, waste minimization, noise avoidance, and effective use of materials (Koutsogiannis, 2018). As can be seen, buildings optimization and sustainable design offer environmental, financial, and social benefits. However, certain risks of economic and organizational nature are involved in green technology-based residential and commercial construction projects. Namely, they include high initial building costs, the complexity of green design, and difficulties finding competent service providers. Furthermore, social inequalities must be addressed to make sustainable housing available for all people.

As for the alternatives suggested, sustainable public transportation helps improve air quality, mitigates global warming and resource depletion, lowers noise pollution, and prevents health issues. However, this approach involves risks due to the organizational effort needed and potential infrastructure problems (Hall et al., 2017). Transitioning to renewable sources of energy implies such benefits as lower operating cost and maintenance requirements, health improvement, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, higher upfront cost, intermittency of solar energy, and the need for energy storage constitute the primary challenges and risks of this policy change.

Conclusion

Based on the discussions presented above, the recommended course of action for Massachusetts is to implement green technologies for residential and office buildings. Since most of the state’s GHG emissions are produced by the residential and commercial sectors, it appears feasible to address this problem as a priority. Sustainable housing allows for reducing the carbon footprint, saving costs, water, and energy, as well as improving the quality of life for people (Darko et al., 2018). Managing environmental pollution implies health benefits for the population, while optimized energy use helps meet the heating and cooling needs of buildings.

Recommendations

As mentioned above, financial and organizational risks can be involved in the process of the policy change implementation. Hence, it is recommended to identify the objectives and desired outcomes of sustainable housing and commercial construction to ensure control over the projects involved. Green construction methods should be implemented whenever practicable to improve the efficiency of buildings. Initial building and renovation costs must be estimated, and qualified specialists must be invited to implement the policy. Furthermore, ensuring that sustainable housing is affordable for people from different households is critical.

References

Climate change. (2021). Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking.

Darko, A., Chan, A. P. C., & Owusu, E. K. (2018). What are the green technologies for sustainable housing development? An empirical study in Ghana. Business Strategy & Development, 1(2), 140-153.

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. (n.d.). GHG emissions and mitigation policies. Mass.gov.

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Hall, C. M., Le-Klähn, D. T., & Ram, Y. (2017). Tourism, public transport and sustainable mobility. Channel View Publications.

Koutsogiannis, A. (2018). Ten benefits of sustainable construction. Construction Executive. Web.

Krosnick, J., & MacInnis, B. (2020). Climate insights 2020: Policies and politics.

Penney, V. (2021). Coal-fired power took a beating during the pandemic, study finds. The New York Times.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2016). What climate change means for Massachusetts

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StudyCorgi. "Mitigating Climate Change in Massachusetts: Policy Recommendations." September 24, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/mitigating-climate-change-in-massachusetts-policy-recommendations/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Mitigating Climate Change in Massachusetts: Policy Recommendations." September 24, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/mitigating-climate-change-in-massachusetts-policy-recommendations/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Mitigating Climate Change in Massachusetts: Policy Recommendations'. 24 September.

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