Rhode Island Needs to Step Up Its Climate Crisis Response

By ASHLEY MASIELLO

How can you not believe in climate change? The facts are right in front of our faces, yet some people still don’t think it’s real. If you think about it, we are constantly contributing to the burning of fossil fuels every single day. Industrial companies are a big part of climate change, but they aren’t the only ones who are contributing. We, as citizens, are too. We drive our cars every day to work and school, releasing greenhouse gases into the air. Think of being stuck in traffic on Interstate 95 with hundreds of other cars surrounding you. The traffic is stagnant. Can you imagine the amount of carbon monoxide coming out of all of those tailpipes?

To raise awareness toward this prominent issue, we’ve seen many climate change strikes and rallies. The most recent of which happened Sept. 20. Many students walked out of their classrooms or didn’t show up to school at all, to protest outside the Statehouse. Protests didn’t just happen here in Rhode Island, they happened worldwide. Students missed school because they believed that climate change is a bigger issue.

But, these weren’t the first climate strikes. They’ve happened multiple times over the past several years. However, it still seems that not much is being done to combat climate change even with all of this publicity. Why is that?

Rhode Island, being the Ocean State, is definitely seeing the impacts of climate change. We’ve seen it through warmer air, warmer sea temperatures, and rising sea levels. Another major effect we’re seeing here is a change in precipitation patterns. Precipitation rates have heightened, becoming more frequent and intense. It can only get worse from here unless we do something.

Why aren’t we doing anything? Even if it’s something small. Rhode Island needs to step up and do more. If we don’t, all of these effects will continue to worsen, creating a harsher environment for us and the wildlife around us.

So, what can we do? Other areas around the world have resorted to reducing the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas. Some simple ways for us citizens to do this include using energy-efficient appliances, driving our cars less, and cutting down on our energy use. All of these things aren’t detrimental to our lifestyles. They’re small, easy things that all of us can do.

With that being said, what can the government do? We know things that we can do to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. One option is wind turbines. We do have some of these, so we are on the right track.

Another would be finding a way to reduce our food waste. An easy, cost-effective way of doing this is composting. If we, as a state, can stop dumping wasted food into landfills, methane levels will decrease. When old food and trash sit in a landfill, it releases methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming. A statewide composting program would be extremely beneficial.

One more thing the state could do is help restore forests. I live in Richmond and I’ve seen forests destroyed to make room for million-dollar condos. The area is becoming more urbanized when it was meant to be rural. Rhode Island seems to be taking the last bits of agricultural backwoods and turning them into urban areas. Urbanization takes animals’ homes away, has us losing trees that help with oxygen creation and carbon sequestration, and creates more traffic and stormwater runoff.

Now, back to the lead question: Why don’t some people believe in climate change? I think the answer is simple. If it doesn’t affect them directly, it doesn’t exist. They need to see it to believe it. But just because some of the local climate changes aren’t easily witnessed, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist or matter.

Also, you can’t just think of climate change in a local setting. Think of the Arctic. The ice is melting at a high rate because the planet is warming. What happens when all of this sea ice melts? Sea levels rise. Everything is a chain reaction and while the effects might seem small now, they’re going to grow.

We may be the smallest state, but we can still make a huge change. Other states and countries have taken initiative in combating climate change. Let’s match that and join in the fight to save our one and only Earth.

Ashley Masiello is a student at the University of Rhode Island and a resident of Richmond.