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Survey measuring attitudes on climate change finds that Nantucketers are alarmed, prepared to take individual action

NANTUCKET, Mass. March 9, 2021 — Nantucketers are alarmed about climate change, according to results of a new survey conducted by ReMain Nantucket and ACKlimate and released today. An analysis of the survey, conducted in January, found that Nantucketers are far more likely to be alarmed about climate change than the national average, 73 percent compared to 26 percent reported in the April 2020 Yale Program on Climate Change Communication SASSY Survey. The report concludes that Nantucket respondents are well aware of the economic impacts that climate change and sea level rise will bring to the island, are ready to take individual action and are in support of actions by local government and businesses to prepare for those impacts. 


Of the 309 survey respondents, 56.6 percent are year-round residents, 36.9 percent are part-time or seasonal residents and 6.5 percent are frequent visitors. A combined 88 percent of respondents expressed that they are either “alarmed” or “concerned” about the impacts of climate change on the Nantucket community, with just 6%  indicating that they are “cautious,” 1%  indicating that they are “disengaged,” 2% indicating that they are “doubtful” and 3% indicating that they are “dismissive.”


The survey, the first in a two-part series in support of the Envision Resilience Nantucket Challenge, was conducted by Boston-based consulting firm EBP. 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.


“We were not surprised by the findings, since they confirm what we know: our community is alarmed by the reality of sea level rise, and we’re willing to do something about it,” said Cecil Barron Jensen, executive director of ReMain Nantucket. “Over this next year, our goal for the Envision Resilience Nantucket Challenge is to show our community what tools are available for adapting to the impacts of rising sea levels on our town, businesses and homes. We hope that the university students’ presentations will inspire us to be proactive and imaginative in the face of climate change.”


When asked about individual adaptation actions, the greatest support was for installing rain gardens, with 76.3 percent of survey respondents indicating that they would consider this action. Efforts to dry floodproof homes were already being taken by 10.4 percent of respondents—the highest level of any adaptation action. However, more than half of respondents indicated that they are opposed to elevating their homes. Though when considering only the subset of respondents living in vulnerable areas of Nantucket (Town, Madaket and Brant Point), relative to the general survey population, residents of these vulnerable areas are slightly more willing to consider elevating their homes (50.0 percent versus 43.4 percent). Concerns about cost, home location or housing tenure (i.e., owners versus renters) were common arguments listed by those in opposition to elevating homes.


The survey also inquired about support for local actions that would reduce individuals’ contributions to climate change. Actions including conserving electricity, purchasing food grown from island gardens, conserving home heating costs and making weekly trips by walking, biking or public transportation are already being done by 50 percent of respondents. And while only 12.9 percent have used a green electricity supplier, almost 90 percent of respondents reported a willingness to switch to green electricity if they have not already. 


Respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement with 13 statements about climate change actions at the local level. Agreement was high overall and Nantucketers strongly believe it is appropriate for government actors on Nantucket to prepare for the impacts of climate change, though some level of disagreement came when asked about tax dollars. 30 percent did not think it was appropriate for the Town of Nantucket to spend tax dollars to protect island homes from sea level rise—though that percentage dropped to nearly 22 percent when asked about protecting island businesses from sea level rise.


Over 90 percent of respondents support or strongly support the use of public rain gardens on Nantucket, though only 59 percent of respondents support raised sidewalks and neighborhoods. EBP concludes that the relative lack of support may be related to familiarity with this action; 34.8 percent of respondents indicated that they were “not sure” about raising sidewalks and neighborhoods on Nantucket. 


The survey results also highlight the community’s comfort with the topic of climate change on Nantucket. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (66.4 percent) indicated that they are likely or very likely to talk to their fellow community members about climate adaptation strategies. What’s more, 77.9 percent of respondents said they were interested in learning more about climate change efforts, impacts and adaptation strategies.


“It is encouraging to see the eagerness with which Nantucketers offered their ideas for preparing the island for the impacts of climate change and the willingness of more than 300 people to participate in this important study,” states the EBP report conclusion. “In light of these responses, it is safe to say that this population has demonstrated a willingness to learn and a willingness to share and work together – all of which is essential for a community-based approach to preparing for climate change. What’s more, this is a population that is receptive to types of efforts included in the Envision Resilience Nantucket Challenge: adaptive solutions, collaborative problem-solving and proactive approaches to living with water rather than fearing it.”   


You can find the full report here. A presentation of the findings will be given by EBP and ReMain Nantucket’s Envision Resilience Nantucket Challenge team on Mar. 23 at the Town’s public Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee (CRAC) meeting. The Zoom link is generated when the meeting agenda is posted, the week prior, and can be found here.


ReMain Nantucket and ReMain Ventures are funded by Wendy Schmidt and her husband Eric to support the economic, social and environmental vitality of the island of Nantucket. In addition to ReMain Nantucket providing grants and sponsorships to support sustainable and cultural initiatives across the island, ReMain Nantucket has worked in conjunction with ReMain Ventures to revitalize the downtown district year-round through the preservation of historic buildings that are home to a mix of nonprofit and commercial businesses. 


ACKlimate is a public-private partnership supporting innovative and holistic approaches and communication to address climate change and sea level rise for the Nantucket community and beyond. The initiative, founded in 2019, was conceptualized by students of the University of Florida Preservation Institute Nantucket, which has been documenting and preserving Nantucket for half a century.


EBP (formerly EDR Group) is a Boston-based company that provides state-of-the-art economic analysis and research to support planning and policy in sustainable transportation, regional development, energy and infrastructure.



March 9, 2021

CONTACT: Claire Martin