PRP Comments on RI 2022 Climate Update 

The Providence Resilience Partnership appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the Rhode Island 2022 Climate Update draft report. Our state is a leader in working to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through the Act on Climate, and the EC4 has made important steps toward decarbonization that are critical for the state’s future. The 2022 Climate Update outlines continued plans to accelerate this work and the EC4 should be commended for this focused effort.

At the same time, we are facing increasingly severe storms, extreme temperatures and flooding, as well as sea level rise – all a result of climate change that has already occurred. As we continue to work on mitigation and decarbonization, it is equally important that we address the impacts and risks that cannot now be avoided. On the national level, billion-dollar disasters are now occurring every 18 days. A recent report, Atlas of Disaster from Rebuild by Design, highlighted that every county in Rhode Island has experienced significant climate impacts in the last decade, including four designated as federal disasters.

We applaud the work of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank’s Municipal Resilience Program and their MRP Action Grants, particularly the forecasted community capacity-building work. The recent allocation of another $16 million for the MRP through the Green Bond Fund was encouraging, but much more is needed. The cost of the four recent federal climate disasters in Rhode Island, noted above, exceeded $56 million – and we have been lucky. We have not experienced a direct hurricane hit in years, nor have we experienced the days of intense precipitation that are now regularly affecting other parts of the country.

The threat that climate change poses for each and every community must be rigorously considered by quantitatively measuring how sensitive each community is to specific immediate threats, like storm surge and extreme heat. Then we must implement effective plans to address these vulnerabilities, because given the weather trends we are seeing, the costs of not addressing them is going to increase exponentially.

Along with emissions reduction and mitigation, climate adaption and resilience are inextricably interwoven with climate justice, economic stability, and public health. Similarly situated neighboring states are prioritizing both mitigation and resilience, with significant investments and utilization of rigorous tools. It’s important we do too.

Rhode Island’s projected revenue surplus and the enormous amount of federal funding currently available can enable us to work on both mitigation and resilience. The decarbonization priorities emphasized in the working draft of Rhode Island 2022 Climate Update are enormously important. But building the capacity of our Rhode Island communities to withstand what climate change has already wrought is equally important. We urge you to expand the working draft focus to address
both priorities while we have an opportunity to do so – next week, next month or next year, we may be confronting climate impacts unlike any seen in our lifetimes. We need to be ready.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if further information would be helpful at
[email protected] or 401.648.8035.