By calculating the relationship between changes in temperature and precipitation and spending by Massachusetts municipalities, a new report concluded that Bay State cities and towns could see their expenditures rise by 30 percent by the end of this century if the climate continues to change at its current pace.
Bo Zhao, a senior economist with the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, used climate and spending data from 1990 through 2019 to determine that a 1-degree Fahrenheit increase in average temperature resulted in an average 3.2 percent increase in per capita municipal spending in Massachusetts and that a 1 percentage point increase in the share of annual days with at least 1 inch of snowfall resulted in an average increase in per capita municipal expenditures of about 0.4 percent.
"If global emissions continue to grow at their current rates, the average temperature in Massachusetts is expected to rise from under 49 degrees Fahrenheit for the 1990-2019 period to over 53 degrees Fahrenheit for the 2050-2059 decade and 58 degrees Fahrenheit for the 2090-2099 decade. Assuming that the relationship between average temperature and municipal expenditures in the future is the same as it was from 1990 through 2019, per capita local spending is projected to increase 15 percent for the 2050-2059 decade and 30 percent for the 2090-2099 decade relative to the level of the past three decades," Zhao wrote in his report.
He added, "These cost increases could create significant fiscal stress on municipalities and force them to raise taxes and fees."
As of last summer, 341 of the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts -- 97 percent of towns and representing more than 99 percent of the state's population -- were part of the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program to get help making infrastructure more resilient against the type of climate change impacts that Zhao's report flagged as cost drivers.
On Tuesday morning, Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll were at UMass Dartmouth for a roundtable on climate sustainability. Healey on the campaign trail last year highlighted her plan to nurture technology being developed in Massachusetts to ease the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, calling for a "whole climate corridor" across the state to create jobs and generate new options for residents to electrify their homes and cars. - Colin A. Young/SHNS | 1/10/23 12:34 PM