Here at the Aquarium, we feel very strongly about protecting the people and places (and animals!) we love, which is why we talk about climate change.

If you participated in our Dream City LEGO® brick activity at a local farmers market or festival, you probably heard us say that our city’s future is connected to the oceans and climate.

dream city activity in boston
Aquarium educators interact with Dream City builders on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

So what’s happening here? The oceans regulate the climate system the way your heart regulates the flow of blood throughout your body. As the heart of the climate’s circulatory system, the oceans move heat and moisture around our globe through currents and winds. The oceans also absorb the Earth’s heat and move it around the planet. When we burn fossil fuels—like coal, oil, and natural gas—we add carbon dioxide to our atmosphere, which traps heat like a blanket. [For a better understanding of the heat-trapping blanket, check out this video.] This heat puts stress on the oceans, damaging their ability to keep the climate stable. As a result of the stress, the oceans sometimes pump too much heat and moisture throughout the system and sometimes too little, which can result in extreme temperatures, extreme rain, or drought.

In Boston, we are already experiencing more days of extreme heat, and, in the future, we are expecting the summers to feel more like the climate of Washington, D.C. In the Northeast, there has already been a 70 percent increase in the intensity of extreme rain and snow. This increase is greater in the Northeast than for any other region of the country, and is likely to continue. 

We know that a heart must be monitored and cared for to ensure overall health and functioning and the best care is preventative care. If we think about the ocean as the heart of the climate, we can see the importance of taking preventative care to prevent further damage to it. That’s why we’re rethinking our use of fossil fuels for energy.

boston harbor with climate change sign
Overlooking Boston Harbor

Fortunately, there are lots of strategies that help us reduce our fossil fuels.

The biggest uses of fossil fuels are in transportation and electricity production so it’s important to consider ways that we can join existing communities that are advocating for shifting our energy needs toward renewable sources in those areas. Advocating for programs that create more wind turbines, solar power, car sharing, and other infrastructure that shifts our energy is the way to go!

By reducing fossil fuels in Boston, we can also make living here pretty awesome. We can end up with other benefits like more bicycle lanes, cleaner air, and more comfortable buildings in the heat of summer and cold of winter. So how do you get involved in turning your dream into a reality? Start talking about it with friends, family, neighbors, and civic leaders! We have some advice on how to start talking about climate solutions in the most effective way possible.

New England Aquarium has worked with partners, including the Frameworks Institute, to find evidence-based recommendations for how to talk about climate change. Instead of arguing about climate data or getting into polarized us-vs.-them debates, these tools help find common ground.

  1. Use values that most Americans share. Research has shown that there are two key values that make your conversations the most productive. Protection: It is crucial for us to protect people and the places we all depend on from being harmed by the issues facing our environment. Responsible Management: By taking practical steps today to address problems facing our environment, we are acting in the best interest of future generations. 
  2. Use metaphors to explain causes and impacts. Several tested metaphors can help you navigate the explanation of climate change. Heat-trapping blanket: When we burn fossil fuels for energy, the carbon dioxide that is released builds up in the atmosphere and acts like a blanket that traps heat around the world, disrupting our climate. Regular vs. Rampant CO2: Regular levels of CO2 are created by normal life processes, but rampant levels of CO2 are produce when we burn fossil fuels for energy. We need to reduce rampant CO2 levels. Climate’s heart: Just as a heart circulates the body’s temperature, the oceans regulate the world’s climate system by controlling the circulation of heat and moisture.
  3. Talking about solutions. By keeping the focus on large-scale city and statewide programs that reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we help keep the conversation positive and hopeful, which supports continued engagement.   

There are lots of resources to get active with your community.

While we often hear about climate change in the national news, the real work combatting this global phenomenon is happening in cities and town around the world. There are probably people in your neighborhood who share your concerns. Join forces, get involved, and look for hope in your community. So where do I go to find a group? Here’s a list of resources:

You could even google your hometown and “climate change” to learn more about the discussions happening in your area. Maybe a library book club is discussing climate change. Maybe there are proposals for renewable energy being considered. Maybe a school group is mobilizing. There are many ways to get involved and make your voice heard.

There are also many resources for connecting directly with civic leaders. At the national level, you can find your senators’ and representatives’ contact information here and here, respectively. Find your state legislators here. Boston residents can look for their local leaders hereCountable is also a great web and mobile app resource for staying connected with your civic leaders and up to speed on what will be hitting their desks soon.