Rhode Island, already a leader on energy efficiency, is beginning to mobilize to address the impacts of climate change. We can turn adversity into a major opportunity to advance social and economic development for the state we want to live in.

Many efforts underway across the state show that individuals, neighborhood groups, cities, and state agencies can make a difference in both reducing our impact on the climate and building communities which are more resilient to climate shifts.

With 400 miles of coastline, the Ocean State has the opportunity to develop innovations in living with sea level rise to be used around the world. Rhode Island also has cities which warm far more than their surrounding farmlands and forests. This “urban heat island effect” places a series of groups at risk, especially the elderly, renters, and low-income residents in neighborhoods lacking tree cover. Increasing tree cover can help reduce the vulnerability of urban populations significantly — the EPA reports that tree shading can reduce surface temperatures 20-45°F in the summer.

River flooding is becoming more common as warmer air and changing weather patterns create more intense storm events. In 2010, the flooding of the Pawtuxet River caused the worst flooding in over 200 years, inundating the Warwick Mall and numerous homes, and forcing evacuations throughout Rhode Island.

The state can take a lead in coordinating actions on adapting to climate and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. We are working with groups across the state to introduce legislation to build resilience in all state agencies

In its response to climate change, Rhode Island can alter current systems and tap into the opportunity to rethink the way our citizens live, bringing Rhode Island to the forefront as an innovative leader in the global fight against this problem.