This page provides an overview of the steps Rhode Island is taking to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
On June 19, 2014, Rhode Island established greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets and an emphasis on adaptation and resilience. The Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 passed both houses of the Rhode Island legislature with the support of Governor Lincoln Chafee, a number of state agencies, and academic institutions including Brown University. The act calls for “new capacities, purposes, goals, indicators, and reporting requirements for climate change mitigation and adaptation in public agencies.”
In February 2014, Governor Chafee created the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Council (Executive Order 14-01). The Council was charged with taking a lead role in developing a comprehensive approach, including both emissions reductions and adaptation planning, to address the potential threats from climate change to the state’s environment, economy, and people. The Council released its first report, A Resilient Rhode Island: Being Practical About Climate Change, in June 2014. That report includes a preliminary action plan to improve the state's resilience to climate change.
In 2010, the Rhode Island legislature established the Rhode Island Climate Change Commission (RICCC) by passing the The Rhode Island Climate Risk Reduction Act of 2010. This 28 member commission includes members of the General Assembly, municipal governments, environmental non-profit organizations, representatives of business and higher education, a realtor, and a medical expert. The RICCC is tasked with studying the projected impacts of climate change within the state and identifying adaptation strategies that will increase economic and ecosystem sustainability.
Pursuant to the 2010 Act, the RICCC released a progress report in 2012 titled Adapting to Climate Change in the Ocean State: A Starting Point. That report summarizes key climate risks and social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities in the state. The report addresses current and projected impacts upon human health and welfare, public and private infrastructure, and the natural environment. The report also identifies current climate change adaptation initiatives in the state, highlights adaptation needs yet to be addressed, and outlines the RICCC’s next steps for 2013.
Rhode Island added section 145 to its Coastal Resources Management Program in 2013 to include consideration of sea-level rise. Section 145 charges the state Coastal Resources Management Council (CMRC) with developing regulations for “planning and management purposes … to accommodate a base rate of expected 3-foot to 5-foot increase in sea level by 2100 in the siting, design, and implementation of public and private coastal activities and to insure proactive stewardship of coastal ecosystems under … changing conditions.” In the regulations, the CMRC acknowledged that 3 to 5 feet of sea-level rise was a low estimate. The regulations do however, allow the Council to “take into account different risk tolerances for differing types of public and private coastal activities” and to periodically reevaluate the rate based upon new scientific evidence.
The CMRC’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP), developed in 2010, is a national model for long-term fisheries management, habitat conservation, and wind-energy development. The CMRC is also developing a Beach SAMP as part of a project to build a research and policy plan for Rhode Island's coast that accounts for 3 to 6 feet of predicted sea-level rise.
Rhode Island's statewide adaptation planning is in progress. Other resources from the Adaptation Clearinghouse, which have been developed by the state and localities to help communities prepare for climate change, are highlighted below.
(Research last updated November 20, 2016.)
The Georgetown Climate Center’s State Adaptation Progress Tracker, which tracks the progress of states in implementing their adaptation plans, is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
|Resource Name||Resource Type||Date|
|Resilient Rhode Island Act (2014-H 7904)||Law and Governance||June 19, 2014|
|Rhode Island E.O. 14-01: Creates an Executive Climate Change Council||Law and Governance||February 21, 2014|
|Rhode Island Climate Risk Reduction Act of 2010||Law and Governance||February 11, 2010|
|The State of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Program (as amended)||Law and Governance||January 15, 2008|
|Resource Name||Sector(s) Covered||Date|
|Rhode Island Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan - Beach SAMP (Draft)||Coastal, Land management and conservation, Land use and built environment||2016|
|RI Executive Climate Change Council Report - A Resilient Rhode Island: Being Practical About Climate Change||Biodiversity and ecosystems, Coastal, Emergency preparedness, Energy, Land use and built environment, Public health, Water resources||June 2014|
|Rhode Island Climate Change Commission 2012 Progress Report - Adapting to Climate Change in the Ocean State: A Starting Point||Biodiversity and ecosystems, Land use and built environment, Public health, Water resources||November 2012|
|Resource Name||Resource Category||Date|
|Rhode Island: STORMTOOLS for mapping coastal flooding||Data and tools||2016|
|Rhode Island Special House Commission to Study Economic Risk Due to Flooding and Sea Level Rise - Final Report||Assessments||May 12, 2016|
|Preliminary Assessment of Rhode Island's Vulnerability to Climate Change and its Options for Adaptation Action - Summary||Assessments||February 2010|