Where can I learn more about climate change?

Did this website just whet your appetite for more climate change knowledge? Do you want to compare what you have read here with other organizations and websites? Some of the leading scientists in the country and the world have much more information for you to continue your education. We recommend:

Overall Climate Change

Climate change is here. What areas of our state are the most vulnerable?

  • Sea Level Rise Mapping and Visualizations: Will sea level rise impact your home? Your favorite beach? Your commute to work? Rhode Island Sea Grant worked with partners to developed statewide maps that show what one foot, three feet, and five feet of sea level rise means for Rhode Island. They also mapped the 1938 hurricane inundation which helps give communities - and you - a historical perspective. Additional sea level rise mapping information is available through the Rhode Island Sea Grant website and the NOAA Coastal Services Center.
  • Assessment and Support of Shoreline Adaptation Actions: Save the Bay is looking at areas that will be most impacted by seal level rise such as low lying roads and bridges, undersized culverts that will flood in high rain events, and at-risk salt marshes that will be squeezed between the rising water and hardened structures. What can we do about these impacts? Save the Bay recommends a variety of adaptation techniques including improved stream buffer zones and planting on shorelines to prevent erosion.
  • Watershed Counts Climate Change Indicators: Watershed Counts is a broad coalition of agencies and organizations that work together to examine and report regularly on the condition of the land and water resources of the Narragansett Bay Watershed Region. It focuses several important indicators including climate change, impervious cover, beach closures, fresh water flow, invasive species, marine water quality, freshwater quality, open space and resource economics.
  • Statewide Substantial Flooding Assessment: Private companies in Rhode Island also know they have to prepare for climate change. National Grid has undertaken a comprehensive flooding assessment of all of its electric transmission and distribution substations, identifying the most vulnerable locations and prioritizing the actions necessary to address potential threats. This means that when the big storms do hit, it will be less likely that you will be in the dark.

How will climate change impact Rhode Island’s drinking water and wastewater?

  • Water Supply Vulnerability and Quality Study with Climate Change: You should not take for granted that when you turn on the faucet, clean and safe drinking water comes out. Climate change could impact that. The Rhode Island Department of Health Office of Drinking Water Quality has launched a new effort called “SafeWater RI: Ensuring Safe Water for Rhode Island’s Future” to help address climate change impacts on water supplies. The resultant model and climate change projections will be available for use by water suppliers.
  • Stormwater Solutions Project: This project provides training and support for municipal wastewater and stormwater managers, decision-makers, and outreach to citizens regarding the management of stormwater and related short-term and long-term climate and precipitation issues. The partners are currently developing a second multi-agency agreement to continue the success of storm-water education in RI.
  • Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Abatement Project: Most likely, you are aware that sewage making its way into Narragansett Bay is bad for everyone. What you may not know is that the State has been working to address this problem and to make sure the sewer system will be able to handle the flow increases that are expected with climate change. The CSO Abatement Project is a three phase program designed to significantly reduce the discharge of sewage contaminated stormwater to the urban rivers of upper Narragansett Bay and can be further modified to deal with the effects of climate change.
  • Strategic Planning Initiative for Potable Water Supply: Making sure potable water remains available is a key issue in Rhode Island climate change assessment. The Water Resources Board (WRB) Strategic Planning Initiative assess current and future demands for both sustainable potable water supply and environmental requirements, with a focus on critical water resources and vulnerable water supplies in both coastal and upland areas.

How will climate change impact my health?

  • Climate Impacts to Public Health: Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH) has received a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’s Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative to address climate change impacts on public health. RI DOH will apply climate science to predict health impacts we may see more – or less – with climate change. It will also prepare flexible programs to help residents with prevention and treatment.
  • Health Impacts of Climate Change – Implications for Resilient Communities in Providence: The City of Providence and its associated agencies need to have access to the best information available in order to make the best choices for residents. This forum helps get city officials in the room with the people who have information they need - academic institutions, community leaders and state health officials. When everyone is in the same room, they can efficiently exchange ideas and develop priority actions for addressing the health implications of climate change.
  • Vector Surveillance for Mosquito and Tick-Borne Diseases: Most Rhode Islanders know the risk of mosquitoes and ticks, but climate change may cause an increase in these pests and the diseases they carry with them. A surveillance system is in place to track and monitor diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks throughout Rhode I sland and you can learn all about it and other tick-related information at The University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter Resource Center.

What is being done in our cities to prepare for climate change?

  • Exploring Climate Change Resilience Strategies in RI Urban Underserved Communities: The Environmental Council of Rhode Island partnered with community organizations in Providence to explore resident's familiarity with climate change issues and develop recommendations to improve urban resilience.
  • Updated Stormwater Manual with Low Impact Development Methods: In 2010, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council developed and adopted a revised stormwater manual. It now requires low impact development methods to manage stormwater on new construction and redevelopment projects. The new stormwater manual design requirements account for increases in rainfall amount and intensity and will help new projects and redevelopment projects adapt to climate change.
  • Trees 2020: Cities typically have higher temperatures than more rural areas because of the high amount of paved surfaces and tall buildings that absorb and reflect heat. One way to counter that is to have more trees in urban areas. Trees 2020 is an initiative to increase Providence’s tree cover to 30% by the year 2020 by encouraging homeowners, land-owning institutions, and city-sponsored tree planting programs to plant over 40,000 trees while providing low-cost, resilient tree options.

How will flooding and storm surge impact my home?

  • Rhode Island State Building Code: The Rhode Island State Building Code (2010) requires at least one foot of freeboard in all high-risk flood zones. The higher homeowners build above flood levels the less damage they are likely to experience from floods and major storms, thus state building codes are very important to consider when building in high-risk flood zones.
  • Updated Coastal Flood Insurance Rate Maps: New coastal Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps for Washington, Kent, Newport, Bristol, and Providence Counties are now available. The updated FEMA maps do not account for sea level rise or other climate change impacts, but they can serve as a starting point from which municipalities and the state can plan for adaptation.

How will climate change impact Rhode Island’s roads and bridges?

  • Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessments: How will sea level rise impact your commute to work or your ability to travel throughout the State? Rhode Island Statewide Planning is identifying specific bridges, roads, rail segments, airports and other transportation facilities that will be exposed sea level rise. The project will culminate in a report that includes adaptation strategies for transportation assets and case studies.
  • Culvert Assessments: Culverts are something you may not think of too often as you drive over them, but those large pipes under roads and bridges are critical to manage flooding, salt marsh health, and water quality. But, are they able to keep up with higher tidal surge and floods that are expected with climate change? Save The Bay is assessing culverts and bridges to find out. As sea level has already risen, some culverts are now under water at high tide. Maps and photographs are being shared with municipalities to make them aware of these problem areas.
  • Block Island Structural Concept and Contingency Plan to Inundation of the Ferry Terminals and Island Roadway Systems: Block Island is popular among Rhode Island residents and summer tourists and a functioning ferry system is critical to the island. The Town of New Shoreham is looking at the potential inundation of the ferry terminals that serve to connect the island to the mainland. The plan will also examine climate change impacts to the roadway system, which links the harbors, commercial and residential areas of the island. This project will serve as a model for other island communities.
  • Replacement of Central Bridge #182 Crossing the Barrington River and Route 138 Reconstruction in South Kingstown: Do you cross the Barrington River Bridge in South Kingstown? If so, you may be seeing construction work soon. Originally constructed in 1939, the concrete Barrington River Bridge now requires full replacement due to its deteriorated condition. Clearance under this bridge is currently about six feet at high tide. However, the bridge will need to be raised about two feet to accommodate sea level rise. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation will also make other improvements including the replacement of the storm drain system.

What’s happening off the coast of Rhode Island?

  • RI Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP): Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) developed the Ocean SAMP with input from a wide variety of experts throughout the state. This plan recommends marine management policies that are practical and enforceable. This is especially important as more and more activities can occur further and further from our coasts - fishing, offshore wind, marine transportation - and the CRMC works to manage these various interests while protecting our beautiful natural resources. Rhode Island is ahead of the curve when it comes to this broad way of thinking, and the President’s Office of Science & Technology Policy highlighted it as an example to the rest of the coastal states who are also seeing increased use of their offshore marine areas.

What does climate change mean for our beaches and ocean front properties?

  • RI Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan (Beach SAMP): The Beach SAMP was started in 2013 and will take shape over the next four years. It is being spearheaded by Rhode Island Sea Grant and will provide insight to coastal protection from erosion, flooding, storms, and expected sea level rise by collecting data and using that data to make smart policy decisions. Our beaches are the bread and butter of the state economy. Whether you bask in the sun while stretched out on the sand, sip your morning coffee on your front porch over-looking the water, or meet your friends on Friday night at the Ocean Mist, our changing shorelines are likely to impact you.
  • Shoreline Change Maps: Interested in how the shoreline has changed in the past? You’re not the only one. Developers and builders particularly have an interest in areas that experience a high level of erosion, but it greatly impacts everyone. Shoreline change maps for the entire coastline of Rhode Island were developed and used by the Coastal Resources Management Center erosion setback guidelines.

What actions can homeowners and businesses take to protect coastal property from storm flooding and shoreline erosion?

How will climate change impact our natural habitats?

  • Climate Ready Estuaries Study of Climate Change Vulnerabilities in the Pawtuxet Watershed: A pilot project in the Lower Pawtuxet River flood plain is serving as an example for the rest of New England on how to prepare for climate change at a watershed level. The urban areas of West Warwick, Cranston, and Warwick are showing how you can make forward-thinking decisions that are best for the environment, communities, and infrastructure like roads and bridges.
  • Wildlife Action Plan (WAP): Through WAP, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and partners are updating the 2005 plan to reassess priority species and habitats, provide more detailed mapping of priority conservation areas, analyze threats affecting fish and wildlife including those posed by climate change, and to outline a number of conservation actions to address or alleviate these threats and help effectively conserve Rhode Island's valuable wildlife resources.
  • Rhode Island Forest Resources Assessment and Strategies: Fall in Rhode Island means a canvas of beautiful and colorful trees. But, climate change may impact the health of our forests and if those colorful trees are even found here. The Forest Resources Management Plan will advance local stewardship of the state’s trees and forest resources to have a healthy, sustainable economy and environment. The goal is to manage and restore trees and forests to mitigate and adapt to global climate change.
  • Salt Marsh Sentinel Site Monitoring: The Sentinel Sites program is a nationally-coordinated effort to monitor selected salt marshes to quantify marsh responses to sea level rise and climate change. At the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, monitoring at the Nag and Coggeshall salt marshes allow the collection of highly accurate elevation data to assess how marshes are reacting to changes in sea level and flooding in Narragansett Bay.

What are government officials and city managers doing to learn more about climate change?

  • Lessons Learned from Tropical Storm Irene: The Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government report on Tropical Storm Irene recommends numerous actions designed to reduce impacts related to loss of telecommunications during storms. While these recommendations were initially intended to address hazard mitigation, they can help reduce post-storm damage and hardship as well.
  • Coastal Training Program Workshops: Climate change-related workshops have been delivered by numerous organizations and partnerships from RI including RI DEM, RI CRMC, RI Sea Grant, and NOAA’s Regional Climate Services Office. These workshops are focused on increasing knowledge about and awareness of climate change in Rhode Island as well as working on finding adaptive solutions.
  • StormSmart Coasts RI Web Portal on Flood Preparedness: StormSmart Coasts is a national resource for coastal decision makers looking for the latest and best information on how to protect their communities from weather and climate hazards before, during and after a storm. This site includes recommendations for flood preparedness as well as information about Rhode Island flood regulations. The site has links for the City Council or Town managers, the building departments, public works, and the planning boards.
  • Rhode Island Flood Mitigation Association (RIFMA): RIFMA is a network of floodplain managers from across the state that organizes training opportunities and conducts meetings that bring together local, state, and federal agencies and individuals together to discuss and address floodplain management issues.
  • State and Local Hazard Mitigation Plans: Each community in Rhode Island is unique and will need to plan for climate change mitigation in a slightly different way. It may sound overwhelming to some of us, but the State and local municipalities are already getting started. Mitigation plans create a framework for risk-based decision making to reduce damages to lives, property, and the economy from future disasters.
  • North Kingstown Sea Level Rise Pilot Study and Comprehensive Plan Amendments: The Town of North Kingstown is a pilot community to assess the effects of sea level rise on coastal communities. Then, based on the North Kingstown experience, other Rhode Island communities will be trained on how to incorporate climate change adaptation into their plans. This information will also be available to residents.
  • Cranston Climate Adaptation Project: Climate change is a hard concept to wrap your head around. It is large, has many impacts, and communities are still figuring out how best to deal with it. Cranston is one of four New England communities testing an innovative way to help coastal communities understand and prepare for the potential impacts of climate change.

What climate change plans and policies are being implemented in Rhode Island?

  • CRMC Climate Change Policy (Section 145): In addition to overwhelming scientific agreement that the climate is changing and strong recommendations that preparation is critical, the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) believes Rhode Island should be thinking ahead as well. In 2009, CRMC adopted a policy to consider climate change and sea level rise impacts to the State's coastal areas. In June 2013, CRMC expanded this to consider the expected 3- to 5-foot sea level rise by 2100 for public and private coastal activities.
  • RI Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act (RIGL 45-22.2-6): The updated Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Act requires cities and towns in Rhode Island to consider climate change in their plans. They must identify areas that could be vulnerable to the effects of sea-level rise, flooding, storm damage, drought, or other natural hazards. They then must use that information to set goals, policies, and implementation techniques that would help to avoid or minimize the impacts on lives, infrastructure, and property.
  • Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA): The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency is updating the Rhode Island Hazard Mitigation Plan through the HIRA process. Multiple state agencies are reviewing the 2011 plan to make sure it adequately addresses risks and will also expand the climate change and sea level rise portion of the plan.
  • Hurricane and Flooding Evacuation Study: Superstorm Sandy brought an important question to the forefront of many people’s minds: if here is a hurricane and I need to evacuate, where do I go? The Army Corps of Engineers New England District with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency is beginning a multistate Hurricane Evacuation Study (HES) and includes all 21 of the coastal Rhode Island communities.
  • Rhode Island Climate Risk Reduction Act (RIGL 23-84-3): The Rhode Island Climate Risk Reduction Act, passed in 2010, established the Rhode Island Climate Change Commission whose purpose is to study the projected impacts of climate change on Rhode Island. The Commission considers impacts to the economy and the environment and the best ways to plan for climate change and the State and municipal levels. You can learn more about their finding in the Climate Change Commission’s 2012 Progress Report.

What legislation exists or is under consideration to address climate change?

  • The Resilient Rhode Island Act, introduced in 2014, seeks to protect the people of Rhode Island and make our state economy and society resilient in the face of nearly certain, but not precisely predictable, effects of climate change. The Act builds off of Governor Chafee’e Executive Order creating Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Council (February 21, 2014), providing a framework for state government to adaptively plan for and manage climate change impacts. The bill emphasizes the need for inclusive public dialogue on the challenges ahead, and seeks to position Rhode Island for future economic development. See ResilientRI.org for more information.

How can I become more active on climate change issues?

  • Hopefully, you now realize that climate change is a very real and imminent threat but that we can plan for those changes and lessen the impacts on our communities. Rhode Island – its leaders, policymakers, NGOs, and advocacy groups - is thinking ahead, making plans, and working to be prepared, but there is lots of need for citizen action. If you want to be more involved, we recommend checking out these sites:

About the RI
Climate Change Collaborative

We hope you will find the information in the topic areas informational and instructive. We also welcome your feedback, which can be sent to the Climate Change Collaborative through the Tell Us What You Think page.

Positions expressed in referenced media or links to external websites do not necessarily reflect the position of the RI Climate Change Collaborative.

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