Every time I ride my bike along Ocean Drive or take a walk on America’s Cup, I am struck by the natural beauty of our city by the sea. And I feel incredibly fortunate to call it home and to wake up every morning to its salty air and bustling streets. I also feel incredibly proud of the work we are doing as a community to strengthen our climate resilience and to protect our families, homes, environment, and economy – especially given the glut of alarming news out of Washington.
First, steep cuts are proposed for federal environmental protection funding to states, and now President Trump is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord – an unprecedented global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the dangerous effects of climate change. Now, more than ever, our work and vigilance at the community level is critical.
As a state, Rhode Island has been out front on climate change, continuing to invest in clean energy and to adapt to a new reality of warmer weather, rising seas, and increased flooding and storms. We’ve constructed the nation’s first offshore wind farm. We are ranked the fourth most energy efficient state in the nation, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. We continue to grow our green economy, with more than 14,000 jobs now supported. And we are working to assess and fortify critical infrastructure across our state.
In Newport, we’ve already experienced the devastating impact of a changing climate. In 2012, SuperStorm Sandy paralyzed our coastal city, knocking out power to thousands of homes, ravaging our shoreline, and damaging priceless landmarks and tourist attractions such as Cliff Walk. In the wake of Sandy, portions of Cliff Walk – one of Newport’s most popular tourism draws – were closed off for more than two years, as a $5.2 million restoration was completed.
We must continue to build on efforts to assess and mitigate our risk and to plan for and adapt to expected climate-related changes. Recently, the City of Newport has taken action to evaluate and invest in our wastewater treatment systems, which are especially vulnerable to storm surge and flooding. This is an important step in the right direction. And we must keep going.
There is considerable work in front of us to protect our historic and beautiful community. As a coastal town, Newport is uniquely vulnerable to a changing climate: our homes, businesses, scenery, and infrastructure – from drinking water to transportation and healthcare. The impacts are far reaching and potentially devastating.
President Trump has signaled a troubling shift in our national posture on this issue. Still, we shouldn’t be deterred but, instead, deepen our resolve and continue to work with communities across Rhode Island – and the region – to strengthen our climate resilience and propel our city forward.
Democratic Candidate for Senate District 13 (Newport, Jamestown)