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 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 Lincolon 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 on 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.
On April 10, 2021, Governor Raimondo signed the Rhode Island 2021 Act on Climate into law, amending the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 by making mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets more enforceable, adding a goal of net-zero by 2050, and requiring actions to promote equity and environmental justice. The new law requires the state Climate Council — established by the 2014 bill — to develop and periodically update a mitigation plan to reach these goals. In regard to adaptation, the 2021 law supplements the Council's adaptation and resilience mandate by calling on the Council to advance the state's understanding of the effects of climate change on food security, in addition to other sectors like sea-level rise and coastal and shoreline change already included in the 2014 law. The law also enhances requirements for state agency vulnerability assessments and notably includes a citizen lawsuit enforcement provision to increase government accountablity for implementing climate-related actions required by law.
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 ensure 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 was developed to support Rhode Island's coastal communities 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. the Beach SAMP is 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.
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: July 21, 2021).
|Resource Name||Resource Type||Date|
|Rhode Island 2021 Act on Climate||Law and Governance||April 10, 2021|
|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|
|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)||Coastal, Land management and conservation, Land use and built environment||June 2018|
|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|
|Providence, Rhode Island - Climate Justice Plan: Creating an Equitable, Low-Carbon, and Climate Resilient Future||2019|
|Adaptation to Natural Hazards and Climate Change in North Kingstown, Rhode Island||August 2015|
|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|