Barr Foundation Knowledge Center

This collection includes publications and resources from our partners and in our program areas, both current and legacy. These resources are completely free to access and download. Most of these works were funded by the Barr Foundation. We may occasionally feature items relevant to our program areas which were not funded by Barr. Please be aware that views expressed are not necessarily those of the Barr Foundation. We encourage you to search our collection and suggest potential content to include (use "Suggest an Addition"). For questions or assistance, please contact
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Carbon Free Boston: Summary Report 2019

January 1, 2019

Carbon Free Boston was developed through comprehensive engagement with City staff, utilities, neighboring municipalities, regional authorities, state agencies, industry experts, and community representatives, among others, and was supported by comprehensive analysis using models that project feasible pathways to carbon neutrality by 2050. To ensure meaningful and actionable outcomes, we looked across scales and considered opportunities and challenges associated with specific actions at the city, state, and regional levels. We also addressed disparities in communities' capacity both to mitigate climate damages and to benefit from the transition to a carbon-neutral city.Supporting technical reports and other resources are also available on the project web site:

Climate - Clean Energy; Climate - Mobility; Climate - Resilience

Field Notes: Equity & State Climate Policy

September 5, 2019

For more than a decade, states and cities across the country have served a leadership role in advancing science-informed climate policy through city, state and multi-state efforts. The rapid pace by which state climate policy is emerging is evidenced by the number of new laws, directives and policies adopted in 2018 and the first half of 2019 alone. Currently, there is an active ongoing dialogue across the U.S. regarding the intersection of climate and equity objectives with efforts targeted at addressing needs of disadvantaged communities and consumers. This climate/equity intersection is due to several factors, including recognition by many cities and states that climate change is and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on certain populations and will exacerbate existing stressors faced by disadvantaged communities and consumers. Research indicates that a greater proportion of environmental burden exists in geographic areas with majority populations of people of color, low-income residents, and/or indigenous people. It is well known that certain households (including some that are low-income, African American, Latino, multi-family and rural) spend a larger portion on their income on home energy costs. States and stakeholders are realizing that a transition to a low-carbon future by mid-century will require significantly increased participation of disadvantaged communities and households in the benefits of climate and clean energy programs.

Climate - Clean Energy; Climate - Mobility; Climate - Resilience

Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days

July 2, 2019

This UCS analysis provides a detailed view of how extreme heat events caused by dangerous combinations of temperature and humidity are likely to become more frequent and widespread in the United States over this century. It also describes the implications for everyday life in different regions of the country.We have analyzed where and how often in the contiguous United States the heat index—also known as the National Weather Service (NWS) "feels like" temperature—is expected to top 90°F, 100°F, or 105°F during future warm seasons (April through October). While there is no one standard definition of "extreme heat," in this report we refer to any individual days with conditions that exceed these thresholds as extreme heat days. We also analyzed the spread and frequency of heat conditions so extreme that the NWS formula cannot accurately calculate a corresponding heat index. The "feels like" temperatures in these cases are literally off the charts.We have conducted this analysis for three global climate scenarios associated with different levels of global heattrapping emissions and future warming. These scenarios reflect different levels of action to reduce global emissions, from effectively no action to rapid action. Even the scenario of rapid action to reduce emissions does not spare our communities a future of substantially increased extreme heat. For the greatest odds of securing a safe climate future for ourselves and the ecosystems we all depend on, we would need to take even more aggressive action, in the US and globally, than outlined in any of the scenarios used here. Our challenge is great, but the threat of not meeting it is far greater.

Climate - Resilience

The State of Zoning for Multi-Family Housing in Greater Boston

June 1, 2019

After a pause during the Great Recession, housing costs began rising again as the shortage of homes identified in 2001 began to widen. In some degree, this is because of nationwide changes that have increased demand for apartments and homes on small lots, especially in walkable, transit-connected places. But Greater Boston is also a victim of its own success. The many attractive characteristics of our region are drawing new households by the thousands. Young adults are forming new families and older residents are less likely to flee to Florida and Arizona. Overall, the population of the region is growing – in fact, Massachusetts is the fastest growing state in the Northeast. The disinvestment and population declines of earlier decades have been reversed, and the benefits are overwhelmingly positive. But, if housing supply cannot keep up with demand, these gains could be lost.From 2010 to 2017, the Metropolitan Boston region added 245,000 new jobs, a 14 percent increase. Yet according to the best data available, cities and towns permitted only 71,600 housing units over that same time period, growth of only 5.2 percent. When supply of new housing does not keep pace with the growing demand created by new workers and young adults forming new households, there is more competition for the existing units. Low rental vacancy rates (just above half of normal) and low for-sale inventory (just above a third of normal) make it a landlord and sellers' market, allowing them to charge top dollar to the highest bidder. Continued demand for labor, driven by economic growth and the retirement of the Baby Boomers is likely to continue driving strong population growth and housing demand well into the future. Compounding the issue is the fact that Baby Boomers will continue to need housing well after they retire, but are stuck in large single family homes because there are very few affordable options to downsize.For more information:

Climate - Resilience

Carbon Free Boston: Social Equity Report 2019

January 1, 2019

This Carbon Free Boston: Social Equity Report provides a deeper equity context for Carbon Free Boston as a whole, and for each strategy area, by demonstrating how inequitable and unjust the playing field is for socially vulnerable Bostonians and why equity must be integrated into policy design and implementation. This report summarizes the current landscape of climate action work for each strategy area and evaluates how it currently impacts inequity. Finally, this report provides guidance to the City and partners on how to do better; it lays out the attributes of an equitable approach to carbon-neutrality, framed around three guiding principles:1) plan carefully to avoid unintended consequences2) be intentional in design through a clear equity lens3) practice inclusivity from start to finish.

Climate - Clean Energy; Climate - Mobility; Climate - Resilience

Governance for a Changing Climate: Adapting Boston's Built Environment for Increased Flooding

September 1, 2018

As this report indicates, implementing CRB is necessary but not sufficient to prepare Boston's built environment for the freshwater and coastal flooding anticipated to result from climate change. Additional steps we must take include reforming existing tools, monitoring and evaluating flood adaptation activities, and establishing governance for district-scale coastal flood protection implementation. This report presents an array of options for moving forward. Over the next year or so, the City and relevant stakeholders will need to come together and decide which, if any, of these options provide the best paths forward for a more resilient city and region.We recommend that the Governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor of Boston establish a joint commission to explore the options and determine a path forward. There is an opportunity for us to learn from the transition to clean energy as we prepare for climate change impacts. We recommend that the legislature take a leadership role in this effort as well, in order to evaluate the different options available to the Commonwealth as we attempt to address this dynamic challenge.

Climate - Resilience

Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate

June 1, 2018

As sea levels rise, more and more American homes and businesses will experience frequent, disruptive flooding that makes everyday life impossible. More than 300,000 of today's coastal homes are at risk of this untenable flooding within the term of a 30-year mortgage.Yet property values in most coastal real estate markets do not currently reflect this risk. And with short-sighted investments and policies at all levels of government concealing this growing problem, homeowners, businesses, communities, and investors are not aware of the financial losses they may soon face.In the coming decades, many coastal real estate markets will be strained by flooding, some to the point of collapse, with potential reverberations throughout the national economy. Individual homeowners and businessowners, banks, lenders, investors, developers, insurers, and taxpayers are poised to sustain large collective losses. Shrinking property tax bases could spell decline for many coastal cities and towns.We have scant time remaining to brace our communities, and our local and national economies, for this challenge. While there are no easy solutions, knowing our risk—and using that knowledge to create bold new policies and market incentives—will help protect coastal communities. Whether we react to this threat by implementing science-based, coordinated, and equitable solutions—or walk, eyes open, toward a crisis—is up to us right now.

Climate - Resilience

Financing Climate Resilience: Mobilizing Resources and Incentives to Protect Boston from Climate Risks

April 1, 2018

This report, sponsored by the Boston Green Ribbon Commission with the generous support of the Barr Foundation, looks at different financial mechanisms for climate resilience. It provides recommendations for the City of Boston and the region on how to pay for climate adaptation investments.

Climate - Resilience

Climate Adaptation and Liability: A Legal Primer and Workshop Summary Report

January 1, 2018

In May 2017, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Boston Green Ribbon Commission (GRC), and Boston Society of Architects (BSA) convened two workshops bringing together over 60 experienced industry professionals from diverse professional backgrounds. The workshops focused on the legal implications of failing to adapt to known climate risks for both government entities and private sector professionals and the potential obstacles to considering and designing for climate risks. Workshop participants were asked to identify and think through on-the-ground barriers to adaptation and what role law and policy plays in encouraging or discouraging adoption of climate adaptation and resilience strategies. The purpose of the workshops and this Report has not been to identify climate resilient design strategies or regulatory solutions. Rather, the focus has been on how potential liability may advance or inhibit implementation of known and well-developed adaptation approaches.

Climate - Resilience

Resilience 2.0: Healthcare's Role in Anchoring Community Health and Resilience

January 1, 2017

Health care institutions and the communities they serve are intimately interconnected, especially during and following extreme weather events and human-made disasters. This Summit focused on leveraging community health and climate resilience as a key strategy in the strengthening the health care sector's climate preparedness. Outputs address health care sector engagement in climate public policy; a business case for climate resilient health care; innovative solutions to backup and reliable power generation for health care facilities and community providers; and creating robust networks of partnerships. The lessons learned, questions raised and next steps are relevant to many places.

Climate - Resilience

Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Projections for Boston

June 1, 2016

While the broad outlines of how climate change would impact Boston have been known for some time, it is only recently that we have developed a more definitive understanding of what lies ahead. That understanding was advanced considerably with the publication of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Projections for Boston by the Boston Research Advisory Group (BRAG).The BRAG report is the first major product of "Climate Ready Boston," a project led by the City of Boston in partnership with the Green Ribbon Commission and funded in part by the Barr Foundation. The BRAG team includes 20 leading experts from the region's major universities on subjects ranging from sea level rise to temperature extremes. University of Massachusetts Boston professors Ellen Douglas and Paul Kirshen headed the research.The BRAG report validates earlier studies, concluding Boston will get hotter, wetter, and saltier in the decades ahead (see figures below). But the group has produced a much more definitive set of projections than existed previously, especially for the problem of sea level rise. BRAG also concluded that some of the effects of climate change will come sooner than expected, accelerating the urgency of planning and action.

Climate - Resilience

Greenovate Boston: 2014 Climate Action Plan Update

January 30, 2015

The Greenovate Boston 2014 Climate Action Plan Update builds upon seven years of work in reducing citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and preparing for the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Beginning with the 2007 Executive Order, the City of Boston set GHG reduction goals of 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 for municipal operations, and requires the City to plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change. In 2011, the City released A Climate of Progress, Boston's first community-wide plan, which set the same GHG reduction goals for all of Boston, while continuing to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Boston has made significant progress toward these goals. Citywide, GHG emissions are 17 percent lower than they were in 2005. Emissions from City government operations have been reduced by almost 25 percent since 2005. Meanwhile, it has become increasingly clear that Boston must also prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

Climate - Resilience

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