PROVIDENCE – Gov. Gina M. Raimondo on Friday called for a statewide action plan to better prepare Rhode Island for the impacts of climate change.
The first-term governor signed an executive order that – among other things – creates a new state position, dubbed “chief resiliency officer.” Shaun O’Rourke, currently the director and stormwater and resiliency at the R.I. Infrastructure Bank, will assume the new role. He is now responsible for working in collaboration with the R.I. Executive Climate Change Coordination Council to develop a statewide action plan.
The state council was created in 2014 and is tasked with studying issues related to climate change.
“There is overwhelming evidence and scientific consensus that man-made greenhouse gases are causing an overall rise in global temperature affecting global climate now and are predicted to have profound effects on global climate in the future,” according to the executive order.
The action plan, due to Raimondo by July 1, 2018, is supposed to recommend “key actions to make Rhode Island’s residents, economy, infrastructure, health system and natural resources more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” according to the executive order.
State and congressional leaders are concerned about the threat of climate change in the Ocean State, where there’s more than 400 miles of coastline. State scientist predict the sea could rise about 10 feet in the next century, which would submerge several locations underwater throughout the state.
“In the last 90 years, we’ve had about 10 inches of sea level rise. We could potentially see 10 feet,” said Grover Fugate, executive director of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council.
Fugate made his comments during a round-table discussion with congressional leaders earlier this year.
“The magnitude of change in that is staggering. Our bridges, our roads, our sewage treatment plans, our water supplies and the utilities are all at threat and we need to upgrade the standards to which they’re built and invest more in these areas,” he added.
Raimondo said the plan should include recommend actions focused on Rhode Island communities, its economy and infrastructure along with the environment. It should also identify funding sources, create cross-sector partnerships and design a framework for state agencies to participate in the efforts.