Statement of Rhode Island's Climate Crisis
The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Continued increases in global temperatures will devastate both human communities and natural ecosystems. Rhode Island will be hit particularly hard: temperatures have risen faster here than in any other state in the continental US. We face increased storm intensity and flooding; health risks from ever-increasing heat waves, asthma, and insect-borne disease; crop and fishery failures; accelerating coastal erosion; and sea level rise of up to 11.5 feet this century.
Limiting the damage from climate change requires immediate, bold action at the international, federal, state and local levels to phase out the use of fossil fuels. Worldwide, greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 7.6% each year between 2020 and 2030 in order to limit global heating to 1.5°C (2.7°F). Within Rhode Island, we call on our leaders to heed the scientific consensus and do our fair share by achieving dramatic emissions reductions in each of the transportation, heating, and power generation sectors. Fortunately, this transition also promises to be an economic boon for Rhode Island as we upgrade from dirty, imported fossil fuels to clean, locally generated, renewable energy.
Just and Equitable Transition
Climate change especially heightens the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities, which bear environmental and socioeconomic burdens as well as legacies of discrimination. Actions undertaken by Rhode Island to cut greenhouse gas emissions must prioritize these communities’ safety, health, and economic well-being. Further, as the energy transition creates good, family-sustaining jobs in areas such as renewable energy installations and building upgrades, the state must prioritize training and access to those jobs for workers displaced from fossil-fuel-dependent work, as well as for those from disadvantaged communities.
Adaptation and Resilience
Although dramatic emissions reductions are necessary to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, complementary adaptation measures will also be needed to address those risks that cannot be avoided. We call on state leaders to invest in adaptation and resilience efforts that protect our state’s communities and natural ecosystems, and maintain public access to the shore.