Introduction To Climate Change

Quite simply, when we use fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, we pump more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and this build-up creates a blanket-like effect, trapping in heat around the earth. If nothing is done to halt this process, the planet we leave our children will be hotter, with more extreme weather, fewer species of plants and animals, and disrupted systems.

Impacts On Rhode Island

The impacts of climate change upon Rhode Island’s built and natural environments are wide-ranging, discernible and documented, and, in many cases growing in severity. Rhode Island will experience warmer air and water temperatures, more extreme weather events such as droughts, intense precipitation, severe storms and flooding, increasing rates of sea level rise, shorter winters and longer summers, and less snowfall and ice coverage. Climate change has the potential to pose significant risks for Rhode Island’s water, wastewater, surface transportation, and energy infrastructures and utilities, our natural environment, and our health, welfare, and economic well-being. Climate change may also produce unexpected benign impacts. For example, warm weather tourism in Rhode Island could increase in the spring and fall, and new recreational and commercial fisheries may emerge as warm water tolerant finfish populations become established in Rhode Island’s coastal and adjacent ocean waters. But these possible benefits will be overwhelmed by the many emerging deleterious impacts, impacts that will tend to interact synergistically.

2017 Watershed Counts
This report highlights three climate change impacts on the economy, ecology and coastal communities of Narragansett Bay: warming water temperatures, accelerating rates of sea level rise and intensifying tropical storms.

State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed 2017 Technical Report
Coordinated by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, this report focuses on three climate change stressor indicators - temperature, precipitation, and sea level. These stressors are increasing rapidly. Air and water temperatures are warming, the intensity and seasonality of precipitation are changing, and sea level is rising. These stressors are already causing ecological responses in Narragansett Bay such as altering the estuarine fish community, with warm-water species increasing and cold-water species declining.

Observed Changes in Rhode Island- At a Glance:

  • Rhode Island has warmed by more than 3 degrees over the past 100 years.
  • Winter water temperatures in Narragansett Bay have increased between 2.9 - 3.6℉
  • Both mean and extreme precipitation have increased during the 21st century, with the highest number of extreme events occurring over the last decade.
  • Sea level has risen more than 9 inches since 1930 at Newport, faster than the global average.

Projected Changes in Rhode Island- Highlights:

  • Under a higher emissions pathway, historically unprecedented warming is projected by the end of the 21st century. Increased intensity of heat waves is also projected, but a decreased intensity of cold waves.
  • Continued increases in frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are projected.
  • Sea level is projected to increase by at least 9 feet by 2100.