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Project September 26, 2019

Cape Cod: At the Edge of a Warming World

Authors:
Salome Verkoville, 10 from Boston sits on Nauset Beach. Image by John Tlumacki. United States, 2019.
Salome Verkoville, 10 from Boston sits on Nauset Beach. Image by John Tlumacki. United States, 2019.

To the millions of us who visit Cape Cod once or twice a summer, the effects of climate change can seem subtle, if we see them at all: A breach in the dunes. A crack in the pavement. But once you know how to see what is shifting, changing, and washing away, it is impossible to ignore.

The Boston Globe went to Cape Cod to better understand the impact of a warming planet in our own backyard. The Cape is a place beloved by millions who vacation there and where communities both depend upon and are shaped by the sea. What the Globe found there is far from remote or abstract, as climate issues can sometimes seem, but tangible, immediate, and disturbing. The Cape's eastern shore, battered by ever more powerful Atlantic-born waves, is losing some three feet of coastline a year, endangering homes, beaches and livelihoods. Birds, indicators of environmental health, have been slowly disappearing. The sea near the Cape is warming faster than 99 percent of the world's oceans, radically changing the nature of marine life and the species that can survive there. The consequences are rippling across the natural and human landscape — through the Cape's culture, its fishing fleets, even its iconic clam shacks, many of which now ship their clams from somewhere else. The Globe spent months with the people most affected and the scientists trying to understand and document the forces that are literally and figuratively reshaping their world in a quest to see clearly what we must do.

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