Rhode Islanders want climate action with accountability

Rhode Islanders want climate action with accountability

What a difference a few years makes!

During the Trump administration, the U.S. pulled out of the international climate agreement, EPA scientists were gagged from even speaking about climate change, and the Department of the Interior proposed drilling for oil off the Rhode Island coast. Here in Rhode Island, Speaker Mattiello said, “There’s nothing Rhode Island can do to address climate change in a way that’s real or impactful.”

Our leaders were out of touch with science and out of touch with the public. The science could not be clearer: if we don’t phase out fossil fuel emissions by 2050, global temperatures will rise by 5 to 9 degrees fahrenheit during our children’s lifetimes, destabilizing weather patterns, crops, oceans, our national security, and life on Earth.

Rhode Island faces droughts, floods, intense storms, fishery collapse, and coastal inundation.

Rhode Islanders get it.

Two recent polls show that Ocean State residents are among the most concerned about the climate crisis in the country. 92 percent want government action to rein in fossil fuel emissions.

When asked to rank the state’s problems, Rhode Islanders put climate change at #2, ahead of the economy and second only to the pandemic.

We want our kids and grandkids to thrive.

Now, in 2021, it seems our new leaders get it, too. On the federal level, President Biden has introduced a $2T infrastructure bill that will put the country to work implementing a just transition to a clean energy future. At our Statehouse, House Speaker Shekarchi and Senate President Ruggerio have renounced the previous speaker’s defeatist attitude, passing the “Act On Climate” bill with overwhelming and bipartisan majorities in both chambers, and swatting away 11 poison-pill amendments brought by opponents. The bill now moves to Gov. McKee’s desk. We expect him to sign it without modification or delay.

Act On Climate is a simple but profoundly important bill. It strengthens our state’s existing pollution-reduction goals, and most importantly, turns them from mere aspirations into enforceable commitments we can count on. (Massachusetts and Connecticut have had enforceable climate goals since 2008.)

It respects science, provides transparency, and ensures an equitable transition off of fossil fuels. Its supporters include not only the state’s leading environmental groups but such diverse organizations as the R.I. AFL-CIO, the R.I. Medical Society, and even National Grid. It expresses the will of the people that we do our fair share to confront the climate crisis.

We’re not scared of the transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. In fact, we’re excited for it! We are eager to breathe cleaner air, especially in our most environmentally burdened communities. We want to harvest Rhode Island’s own bountiful renewable energy, instead of sending our money to fracking states and OPEC countries. We are ready to enjoy the family-sustaining jobs associated with upgrading our energy infrastructure over the decades ahead.

Gov. McKee, we ask you to join President Biden and our General Assembly in a proud commitment to climate leadership. As a first step, we urge you to sign the Act On Climate bill in its full strength. (At the time of writing) over 1,500 Rhode Islanders from every corner of the state join us in this request: actionnetwork.org/petitions/act-on-climate/. We look forward to celebrating its enactment with you!

The following volunteer members of Climate Action Rhode Island (350.org/ri):

Will Nakshian,

CARI Blackstone regional lead

Cumberland

Jeff Migneault,

CARI Politics co-lead

Smithfield

Currie Touloumtzis,

CARI Greater Providence regional lead

North Providence