There was a lot to like about what Governor Healey had to say about our rapidly changing climate in her State of the Commonwealth speech Tuesday evening, especially about her expectation that Massachusetts will be the leader in renewable energy and resilience. The Healey-Driscoll Administration's renewable energy accomplishments in only one year are beyond impressive; proof (as if we needed it) that a cabinet level Climate Chief and Climate Office and excellent leaders in the Commonwealth's environment and energy departments and its quasi-public financing agencies are doing exactly what we would want them to be doing in this regard.

I'm puzzled as to how Sabrina Shankman of The Boston Globe made the transition from what Governor Healey said Tuesday evening to her report this morning focused on abandoning our coasts.   

Isn't it inconsistent with everything the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been and everything we want it to be to be talking about retreating from any challenge before we've fought the good fight to meet that challenge? And even if we'd rather switch than fight, it is one thing to talk about Dennis but what about Boston, Quincy, Gloucester, New Bedford and other densely populated cities? 

The truth is that past administrations have shied away from a deep dive on climate resilience, perhaps because past leaders didn't want to concede what we now know about the damage our warming climate is causing communities on our rivers and harbors regardless of what we do to reduce our emissions of the Green House Gases causing that warming. Perhaps the thinking was that we would be less amenable to the monumental changes necessary to reduce those emissions if we knew that we could be more resilient to climate change. At least in Massachusetts, those days are behind us.

But that doesn't mean that we have no choice but to retreat from the rising oceans and rivers we already face; not by a long shot.

The science of coastal resilience has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past several years.   Scientists know how to employ nature based resilience solutions to make our coastlines and river floodplains more resilient. All that is needed to bring that science to bear is for us to update our mid 20th century Wetlands Protection Act to encourage the implementation of those nature based resilience solutions. That isn't hard. How do I know? I've already identified the few revisions necessary.

But sadly there are some in and outside our Government that are still mired in the “let nature take its course” mindset animating our pre-climate change laws.   That makes nature based resilience harder here than it is pretty much any place else.   I hope Governor Healey and her leadership team can overcome that mindset and do what is necessary to protect our coastal and riverfront communities now before the scientists tell us it will be too late which is sooner than we might wish.

Yes, some retreat may still be unavoidable. But we will know that we have done what we could to protect coastal and riverfront homes, parks, public and private facilities, and essential infrastructure, and improved our environment in the bargain.