Your Martha’s Vineyard climate change roadmap

Who’s who and what’s what. 

State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, addresses the Climate Task Force of the Martha's Vineyard Commission. - Brittany Bowker

There’s no longer any question that climate change is real. Dukes County is ranked one of the fastest warming regions in the nation, and sea level rise continues to change the character of Martha’s Vineyard shorelines. According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average sea level is projected to rise between 12 and 48 inches by 2050, and 12 and 72 inches by 2100. The Washington Post’s August analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research suggests Dukes County is among only 71 other counties in the nation to exceed 2º Celsius warming threshold — a critical point of reference determined in the 2015 Paris accord. 

While the question around climate change is no longer ambiguous, the questions around what we can do about it can be confusing.

There are dozens of Islanders putting policies, plans, discussions, and committees in place to bring an inevitably warming climate to the forefront of every decision that’s made on Martha’s Vineyard. “This isn’t a one- to two-year task,” Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) member Ben Robinson said at a recent MVC Climate Action Task Force meeting. “We’re talking multiple decades.” 

Over the next few months, The Times will ramp up its climate coverage. We aim to gather, explain, and organize all the information out there — on-Island and beyond. Keep an eye on this ‘Greening Martha’ section, and other print and digital sections; we’ll offer long- and short-term solutions, updates from stakeholders, and we will attempt to answer readers’ questions.


A Martha’s Vineyard climate road map

With many cooks in the kitchen, it can be hard to navigate who’s doing what, where, and why. At a Friday, Oct. 4, MVC Climate Action Task Force meeting, The Times got a sense for the many players in the game and key tasks at hand. 

The MVC Climate Action Task Force is made up of MVC members and staff, town employees, board members, engineers, educators, and conservationists. Their main role as stakeholders in the climate resiliency road map is to tackle policy. At Friday’s meeting, the group touched on the topic of electric ferries, mitigation and adaptation master plans, and streamlining communication records across the MVC Climate Action Task Force. 

Did you know that our ferries could be converted from diesel to electric? In July, MVC Climate Action Task Force member Noli Taylor and student activist Emily Gazzaniga pressed the Steamship Authority (SSA) to convert the ferry fleet to electric, but were met with cost-prohibitive concerns. The MVC subcommittee agreed the SSA needs another nudge in the right direction. The short-term plan is to write a letter highlighting where the Island stands, and its desire to see an electric fleet, and how a Martha’s Vineyard–SSA partnership could help move that along. 

“I think there’s an opportunity for them to understand that they’re a partner in this,” MVC task force member Cheryl Doble said, “helping them understand that it is really good for them to be involved in this conversation.” 

A policy plan draft was discussed as a medium-term goal for the MVC climate subcommittee. The group referenced Washington State Ferries (WSF) and its plan to convert its three largest ferries from diesel fuel to electric power as a model.

“They’re a good resource,” MVC Climate Action Task Force member Alex Elvin said. According to Elvin, the WSF carries eight times the number of passengers, and has only two times the maintenance budget. WSF also has 22 vessels and 18 routes, compared with the SSA’s eight vessels and two routes. Over time, Elvin and other MVC Climate Task Force members argued, electrifying ferries would bring down overall ferry maintenance costs. 

Mitigation and adaptation master plans are high on the MVC’s list of priority policies, and the Climate Action Task Force has a large part in those developments. The group agreed plans and policies should be in place, and then presented to each Island town to take action informed by MVC findings and recommendations. “Since the onset of this work, I expect these plans are the most important output of this task force,” member Robert Hannemann said. “Plans that can be revised once each town looks at them.”

The mitigation master plan is well underway, with a working group made up of Hanneman, Kate Warner, Alan Strahler, Marc Rosenbaum, Tom Soldini, and Richard Andre. The group represents all six Island towns.

“If you want to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’re starting from,” Hannemann said. 

Energy consumption represents 90 percent of the opportunity of mitigating the effects of climate change, according to Hannemann. The group is focused on understanding the energy baseline across three energy sectors: electricity, transportation, and buildings. “We are developing and writing [about] the current situation and what needs to be done to achieve our overall goals,” Hannemann said. 

“The MVC has a surprising amount of data on buildings and transportation,” Rosenbaum added. “What we haven’t committed to is a delivery date for presenting the whole thing. This is what I’m doing.”

Liz Durkee is leading efforts on the adaptation master plan, which she aims to have updates on for the next scheduled MVC Climate Action Task Force meeting on Oct. 18. “Before we go to the [MVC] to get policy adopted, we want to have an impact,” MVC executive director Adam Turner said. “We want to have the right speaker at the right time.”

State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, addressed the group briefly before the meeting adjourned. He praised Edgartown’s recent agreement with Vineyard Wind. He also touched on the House’s passing of the Green Works bill, “a borrowing bonding bill,” Sen. Cyr said.

The MVC Climate Action Task Force plans to meet with Sen. Cyr in the near future. “Absolutely,” Sen. Cyr said. “Let me know what resources do you need from the state.” 

“It’s a bigger task than I think anyone really, truly appreciates,” Robinson later told The Times. “We can’t choose to do or not do something. We have to do something. The sooner we all realize that, the better.” 


Key players in tackling climate change
(If we missed something, let us know. Email 

MVC Climate Action Task Force
Focus: Policy, government
Members: MVC members and staff, environmentalists, educators
Next meeting: Friday, Oct. 18, 9:30 am, MVC community room (open to the public)

Island Climate Action Network (ICAN)
Focus: Education, advocacy, activism
Members: Volunteers
Next meeting: Early November, TBA (open to the public)
Upcoming climate events:

  • “Be Emergency Wise” Tuesday, Oct. 15, 4 pm, West Tisbury library (same talk on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2:30 pm, Oak Bluffs library)
  • SSA public listening session on new mission statement, Thursday, Oct. 17, 4 pm, M.V. Museum
  • Smith College sea level rise and climate change presentation, Saturday, Oct. 19, 4 pm, M.V. Museum

Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee (VSEC)
Focus: Sustainable energy policy, government
Members: All-Island energy committee chairmen, Vineyard Power (partner of ICAN)
Next meeting: Wednesday, Oct. 23, 5 pm, Howes House (open to the public) 

Vineyard Power
Focus: Offshore wind, legislation, solar, electrification
Members: Staff/board/members, Vineyard Wind (partner of ICAN, MVC, VSEC)
Next meeting: N/A

Vineyard Conservation Society
Focus: Advocacy, environmental education, environmental legal defense, land and water protection
Members: Staff/board/membership organization (partner of ICAN)
Annual meeting: June 2020 (closed to the public)
Upcoming climate events: “Questioning Consumption,” Wednesday, Oct. 16, 5 pm, Chilmark library

Island Grown Initiative
Focus: Community food education, food equity and recovery, regenerative food and agriculture
Members: Staff/board/volunteers (partner of ICAN)
Next meeting: N/A

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
Focus: Environmental education, protecting habitats and wildlife
Members: Staff/volunteers (partner of ICAN)
Next meeting: N/A
Upcoming climate events: “Climate Cafe — Making the Switch: Energy,” Sunday, Oct. 20, 2-3 pm, Waterside Market

Chilmark Climate Action Working Group
Focus: Review existing Chilmark data on climate change, organize meetings, create priority list
Members: Five- to seven-member group TBD (partner of MVC)
Next meeting: TBA

M.V. Community Emergency Response Teams
Focus: Emergency and disaster preparedness
Members: Gary Robinson, Noli Taylor, and others
Next meeting: N/A
Upcoming events: “Emergency Preparedness First Aid Training,” Saturday, Oct. 26, 9 am, Aquinnah Town Hall 

Vineyard Futureworks
Focus: Environment, economy, community, culture
Members: Board/staff (partner of ICAN, MVCS)
Next meeting: N/A
Upcoming events: Summer 2020 Climate Summit (TBA)

Aquinnah Climate and Energy Committee
Focus: Develop town-specific energy and climate policy
Members: Noli Taylor, Bill Lake, Meghan Gombos, Forrest Filler, Gary Robinson (partner of VSEC)
Next meeting: TBA (open to the public)

Chilmark Energy Committee
Focus: Develop town-specific energy and climate policy
Members: Robert Hannemann, Steve Lewenberg, Jerald Katch, Jonah Maidoff, Mike Jacobs (partner of VSEC)
Next meeting: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 5:30 pm, Chilmark Town Hall (open to the public)

Edgartown Energy Committee
Focus: Develop town-specific energy and climate policy
Members: Alan Strahler, Bonni Widdoes, Carla Cooper, Kara Shemeth (partner of VSEC)
Next meeting: Thursday, Oct. 25, 3:30 pm, Edgartown library (open to the public) 

Oak Bluffs Energy Committee
Focus: Develop town-specific energy and climate policy
Members: N/A (partner of VSEC)
Next meeting: TBA

Tisbury Energy Committee 
Focus: Develop town-specific energy and climate policy
Members: Bill Straw, Kirk Metell, Nancy Gilfoy, Bruce Stuart (partner of VSEC)
Next meeting: Thursday, Oct. 24, Department of Public Works building, 3 pm (open to the public)

West Tisbury Energy Committee
Focus: Develop town-specific energy and climate policy
Members: Sue Hruby, Ron D’Agostino, Richard Andre, Rebekah Thomson (partner of VSEC)
Next meeting: TBA

One green minute:

In an effort to tackle climate change in a tangible way, we’re rolling out a series of quick, easy, “what you can do in a minute” greening tips for Times readers. Today’s green minute is inspired by a recent New York Times article: Smarter Laundry.

Next time you do a load of laundry, use cold water. According to the New York Times, 90 percent of the energy a washing machine uses goes toward heating up water. As long as you’re not washing bed linens after being sick, or a hamper of sweaty gym gear, keep your next load on cool.