This page provides an overview of the steps Rhode Island is taking to prepare for the impacts of 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. 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. 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. In June 2014, the Council released its first report, A Resilient Rhode Island: Being Practical About Climate Change (the 2014 “Resilient Rhode Island Report” or “2014 Report”). That 2014 Report includes a preliminary action plan to improve the state's resilience to climate change.

On June 19, 2014, the Rhode Island legislature enacted the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 with the support of Governor Chafee. The Act established greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets and an emphasis on adaptation and resilience, calling for “new capacities, purposes, goals, indicators, and reporting requirements for climate change mitigation and adaptation in public agencies.”

On September 15, 2017, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed Executive Order 17-10, which created the position of state Chief Resilience Officer. The Executive Order called on the Chief Resilience Officer to work collaboratively with partners to develop a statewide “Action Plan to Stand Up to Climate Change” by July 1, 2018. The executive order recognized that Rhode Island and its 400 miles of coastline is highly vulnerable to climate change, particularly risks related to warmer weather and waters, sea level rise, more intense storms, and flooding.

In July 2018, the state released Resilient Rhody, its first climate adaptation strategy, in accordance with Executive Order 17-10’s requirements. Resilient Rhody addresses the impacts of climate change to the state’s critical infrastructure and utilities, natural systems (upland and coastal), emergency preparedness, and community health and resilience. The Plan outlines strategic actions for each of the four sectors, and also includes an overarching chapter on financing mechanisms the state may consider to advance the recommended actions.

Vulnerability Assessment

To support adaptation planning, state agencies conducted a vulnerability assessment for public health, coastal land use, and transportation assets, in 2016. Rhode Island’s Statewide Planning Program, Technical Paper 167: Rhode Island: Vulnerability of Municipal Transportation Assets to Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge analyzed the estimated geographic extent of sea-level rise in relation to transportation infrastructure in the state over the next century. In 2015, the Rhode Island Department of Health also published a Climate Change and Health Resiliency Report that identifies the climate change impacts on public health in the state, and offers strategies that can strengthen the effectiveness of public health management for climate impacts. The Department of Health Climate Change Program (HEALTH) has implemented climate adaptation projects that are highlighted throughout the report.

Other State Adaptation Actions

Even before Resilient Rhody, Rhode Island agencies took various actions to assess and adapt the state to the impacts of climate change.

In 2013, Rhode Island added Section 145 to its Coastal Resources Management Program 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, CMRC acknowledged that three to five feet of sea-level rise was a low estimate.

CRMC has since published the Rhode Island Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan — (Beach SAMP) The Plan is being developed to support the coastal communities of Rhode Island in adapting to the effects of sea-level rise and the increased frequency and severity of coastal storm events. The study area for this Plan includes the entire coastal zone of Rhode Island and all 21 coastal communities. SAMP has been designed to be a guidance and planning document rather than a regulatory document with policies, regulations, or standards, in order to provide the flexibility to local and state decisionmakers to identify the strategies most appropriate for each community. The Beach SAMP will be a guidance document that is also used to inform regulatory changes to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Program.Since Rhode Island just released Resilient Rhody in July 2018, these pages will be updated in the future with the progress the state is making in implementing the adaptation actions and goals set forth in Resilient Rhody.

 

Since Rhode Island just released Resilient Rhody in July 2018, these pages will be updated in the future with the progress the state is making in implementing the adaptation actions and goals set forth in Resilient Rhody.

Other resources from the Adaptation Clearinghouse, which have been developed and adopted to help Rhode Island prepare for the impacts of climate change, are featured in the chart below.

The Georgetown Climate Center’s State Adaptation Progress Tracker, which tracks the progress states are making in implementing adaptation plans, was supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

(Research last updated: August 16, 2018).

 

 
State Agency Action Overview
Local Support Overview
 
 

State Law and Policy

Resource Name Resource Type Date
Rhode Island H 5042/S 1005 2017: Flooding and Sea Level Rise Training for Municipal Planning Boards and Commissions Law and Governance September 27, 2017
Rhode Island E.O. 17-10: Action Plan to Stand up To Climate Change Law and Governance September 15, 2017
RI H 5478: Creating the Rhode Island House Commission on Economic Risk Due to Flooding and Sea Rise Law and Governance June 17, 2015
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 - Red Book Law and Governance January 15, 2008

State Agency Plans

Resource Name Sector(s) Covered Date
Resilient Rhody: An Actionable Vision for Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change in Rhode Island Biodiversity and ecosystems, Coastal, Emergency preparedness, Land use and built environment, Transportation, Frontline Communities, Water infrastructure July 2, 2018
Rhode Island Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan - Beach SAMP (Draft) Coastal, Land management and conservation, Land use and built environment 2016
Rhode Island Rising: A Plan for People, Places, and Prosperity Agriculture and food, Coastal, Energy, Land use and built environment, Transportation, Water infrastructure, Water resources December 2014
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

Local and Regional Plans

Resource Name Date
Adaptation to Natural Hazards and Climate Change in North Kingstown, Rhode Island August 2015

More Featured Resources

Resource Name Resource Category Date
Rhode Island Socioeconomics of Sea Level Rise Assessments 2016/2017
Implications of Climate Change for Rhode Island Wastewater Collection and Treatment Infrastructure Assessments March 2017
Rhode Island: STORMTOOLS for mapping coastal flooding Data and tools 2016
Rhode Island: Vulnerability of Municipal Transportation Assets to Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Assessments September 28, 2016
Rhode Island Special House Commission to Study Economic Risk Due to Flooding and Sea Level Rise - Final Report Assessments May 12, 2016
Rhode Island 2015 Climate Change and Health Resiliency Report Assessments 2015
Catalog of Adaptation Techniques for Coastal and Waterfront Businesses: Options to Help Heal with the Impacts of Storms and Sea Level Rise Solutions May 2015
Understanding the Economic Development Opportunity & Impact of Climate Change Assessments April 2014
Preliminary Assessment of Rhode Island's Vulnerability to Climate Change and its Options for Adaptation Action - Summary Assessments February 2010
 

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