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Climate Change Worries Weigh Heavily on Nearly 90 Percent of Nantucketers: Survey


Nearly nine out of ten Nantucketers are seriously worried about the local effects of climate change, according to a new survey.

The survey by environmental advocacy groups ReMain Nantucket and ACKlimate found that 88 percent of Nantucket residents and regular visitors say they’re “alarmed” or “concerned” about how the effects of climate change could shape the island’s future.

The groups worked with Boston-based consulting firm EBP to conduct the survey, as part of an initiative to increase visibility for a climate initiative known as the “Envision Resilience Nantucket Challenge.”

“The Challenge, a virtual design studio currently underway, will produce proposals for Nantucket’s waterfront in the face of sea level rise from five participating universities. The final design proposals will be presented to the community at a public event this spring,” according to a press release.

The firm surveyed 309 people, including frequent visitors, full-time residents, and seasonal residents — and found that beyond the 88 percent with serious concerns, just 3 percent feel dismissive about climate change, with the small remainder feeling cautious or disengaged. In fact, it found, Nantucketers are three times more likely to be alarmed about climate change than the national average, according to a comparison with a national survey conducted in April 2020 by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

“The vast majority, they are alarmed, and they are concerned, and what else the survey indicated to us was that people are ready to take action,” said Claire Martin, the communications specialist at ReMain Nantucket.

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents indicated that they are likely or very likely to talk to their fellow community members about climate adaptation strategies.

“If that starts to take hold and those people make change — maybe through those conversations that they indicated they'd be willing to have with their neighbors — we can affect more change over time,” Martin added.

The survey provided a window into how Nantucketers feel about specific climate change adaptation measures, and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall.

Agreement was high that public officials on Nantucket should prepare for the impacts of climate change, though there was some disagreement over how tax dollars should be used. Around 30 percent of respondents said it wasn’t appropriate for the town to spend tax dollars to protect island homes from sea level rise, but that percentage fell to around 22 percent when asked about protecting island businesses from sea level rise.

As far as personal actions, while only about 13 percent of respondents said they have used a “green electricity supplier,” almost 90 percent said they’d be willing to switch to reduce their carbon footprint. Similarly, only about 10 percent of respondents said they were already taking efforts to floodproof their homes, but 50 percent of residents surveyed who live in vulnerable areas of town — around Madaket and Brant Point — were willing to consider elevating their homes.

About half of surveyed islanders also said they’re already taking actions to conserve electricity, purchase locally grown food, and travel by foot, bike, or public transit to reduce their carbon footprint. Still, they indicated, there’s an appetite for more actions.

“I was really encouraged to see so many people that were interested in rain gardens and even, you know, a fairly sizable percentage saying that they would support raising sidewalks or even elevating their house depending on where they lived,” said Cecil Barron Jensen, executive director of ReMain Nantucket.

Perhaps most encouragingly, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they were interested in learning more about climate change efforts, impacts and adaptation strategies.

“So many indicated that they also wanted to receive resources related to resilience, climate change, sea level rise and adaptation,” said Martin. “Perhaps what hasn't been here in the last several years was a place to find information … and hear from other residents, community members, neighbors, and business owners who have already been impacted by sea level rise, storms, flooding, and all of these things.”

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.