Over the past half-century the mid-Atlantic coast, including Massachusetts, has experienced a sea level rise that is 3-4 times higher than the global average, according to a report by Sallenger and colleagues in Nature Climate Change. The effects of sea level rise are increasingly felt on Nantucket Island where powerful storm surges dramatically alter beaches and destroy houses.
Homeowners are moving their houses further inland where possible, or building massive sea walls. Such efforts are understandable, but perhaps just delay the inevitable effects of climate change.
Because of its mild oceanic climate, Nantucket gardeners can grow cold-sensitive plants, such as camellias and crepe myrtles that cannot survive Boston winters. As the global climate warms, we will likely be able to grow these beautiful plants in Boston in coming decades.
The efforts of Nantucket’s people to balance economic development and environmental protection faces new urgency because of rising sea levels and climate change. Some of these same issues have been described in the recent book A Meeting of Land and Sea: Nature and the Future of Martha’s Vineyard by the eminent Harvard Forest ecologist David Foster, that I reviewed for the journal Ecology.