Just one week after the Rhode Island General Assembly passed the 2021 Act on Climate,  the University of Rhode Island held a lecture talking about local efforts to fight climate change. 

On April 7, the Harrington School of Communication and Media hosted “Solve Climate by 2030,” where three speakers discussed how to combat climate change. 

The Act will work to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions in Rhode Island with the goal to have no emissions by 2050. It plans to do this by creating more renewable energy sources in Rhode Island.

One of the biggest sources of carbon emissions in Rhode Island is transportation, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. 

Some solutions that could reduce emissions are making public transportation electric and increasing its accessibility to Rhode Islanders, which would reduce the number of vehicles.

Climate change is a serious issue facing the world and all estimates reflect that the severe effects of climate change will become irreversible if not addressed in the next few decades, according to a report by the United Nations. Rachel Calabro, the climate change program manager for the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), has been working to find how climate change is affecting citizens’ health in Rhode Island.

RIDOH, in partnership with Climate Adaptation Planning and Analytics (CAPA) Heat Watch, is working to make temperature maps of the state. The results revealed that in the height of summer, temperatures were staying above 70 degrees overnight, which Calabro said can lead to health issues. 

“We know that after several nights over 70 degrees, hospitalizations start to go up, [and] visits go up from everything to heart attacks, COPD and other health conditions,” Calabro said. 

Yasmin Yacoby, the program manager for energy justice at the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, spoke about energy burdens and the percentage of household income dedicated to energy costs. According to Yacoby, the highest energy burdens are usually found in low-income communities.

Since energy is already expensive in these areas, it’s less accessible for the people in these areas to switch to clean or renewable energy sources.

“We have to really work [to ensure] that community voices are at the table and are being heard and that those communities that have been historically oppressed have a way to shape their energy future,” Yacoby said.

Green Energy Consumers Alliance, a non-profit organization, has helped communities across Massachusetts and Rhode Island access clean energy through various green energy avenues. 

“We offer green energy choices such as discounts on electric cars, green electricity for individuals and communities and many other green energy programs that enable over 20,000 members and participants to easily access cleaner and cost-effective options,” said Priscilla De La Cruz, Rhode Island director at Green Energy Consumers Alliance.

The Green Energy Consumer Alliance supports many other policies focused on addressing carbon emissions and pollution such as the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which focuses on discouraging fossil fuels and funding clean transportation. 

Rhode Island is taking many positive steps towards a cleaner and healthier environment and economy which will benefit all of its citizens as the three speakers noted. If the 2021 Act on Climate passes through Governor McKee, the Rhode Island government will establish a plan to become net-zero and have no carbon emissions by 2050.