Like so many other coastal regions in the U.S. and around the world, Rhode Island is currently on course for warmer temperatures and more frequent extreme weather.
Over the coming years, more intense rainfall, rising seas, and storm surges will subject the state to more frequent flooding—causing damage to coastal structures, beaches, infrastructure, and property. Meanwhile, warming ocean temperatures could reduce the populations of key commercial marine species (such as American lobster and Atlantic cod), with potentially dire implications for the local economies of fishing communities. And the shifting climate could also pose a direct threat to the health of Rhode Island’s residents—from extreme heat to an increased incidence of vector-borne diseases, and degraded water quality.
The good news: Governor Gina Raimondo and the state’s leadership understand the risks of climate change, and is tackling the challenge head-on.
For example, Rhode Island is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state agreement to cap emissions and require power plants to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide they emit by 2.5 percent each year. Since RGGI began in 2009, it has cut carbon pollution across its nine participating states by 40 percent. At the same time, one report indicates that Rhode Island’s participation in RGGI has produced between $65 and $148 million in health benefits for the state. Governor Raimondo recently endorsed a new, bipartisan agreement to extend the RGGI program through 2030 and reduce the emissions cap by 30 percent from 2020 levels.
Rhode Island has also steadily reduced emissions through its nationally-recognized energy efficiency programs. Rhode Island has the nation’s first off-shore wind turbines, and Governor Raimondo has set forth bold goals for Rhode Island’s clean energy, which will result in ten times as much clean energy by 2020. At the same time, efforts to fight climate change are already bearing fruit for the state’s economy. Since 2014, the number of clean energy jobs in the state has grown by 66 percent (11 percent in just the last year). Today, the clean energy economy in Rhode Island employs more than 15,300 people—putting the state well on its way to the Governor’s goal of 20,000 clean energy jobs by 2020.