Rhode Island is facing a climate crisis. Since 1956, Providence’s sea level has risen some 5 inches, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists have predicted that over the next 16 years levels will continue to rise another 6 inches, at a more-rapid rate.
Rising sea levels have led to recovery and revitalization projects throughout Rhode Island that have cost the state millions of dollars, including the $11 million in damages to Newport’s Cliff Walk after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The state now plans to spend more than $100 million to build sea-level rise mitigation measures to mitigate future disasters.
These proposed projects that would use Rhode Islanders’ taxpayer dollars are merely Band-Aid “solutions” to tackle aspects of global climate change. In other words, they aren’t helping to address the underlying issues that are accelerating the Earth’s warming and its associated effects.
Although these mitigation efforts will be necessary to combat sea-level rise and prevent destruction of Rhode Island’s coastline and communities, what is needed in conjunction with mitigation techniques are revolutionary policies and decisions that center around prevention. Climate change can be slowed, but it’s up to voters to decide how to change the tide on what feels like an insurmountable problem.
Enter the Sunrise Movement: a movement to “stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” Established in 2017, this growing bipartisan force for change looks to grassroots organizations to highlight why climate change should be considered an urgent priority by lawmakers and voters.
Currently, dozens of chapters throughout the United States, composed primarily of passionate, environmentally conscious volunteers, work locally to organize support for leaders who already stand up to climate change and help elect new leaders to end the “corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives” on American politics.
In 2018, the Sunrise Movement joined Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., to launch the Green New Deal Resolution with 64 co-sponsors — a resolution focused on sparking conversation about climate-change prevention and solutions.
Additional members of Congress have recently joined the movement. The movement has begun to hold 2020 democratic candidates accountable to their green ideals and promises by getting 14 presidential candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, and Kirsten Gillibrand, to take a pledge against fossil-fuel donations.
Rhode Islanders can, and should, get involved in this movement by joining either of the Providence or South County Sunrise Movements hubs. The newly established Sunrise South County hub will be holding an informal informational gathering June 30 at noon at Bagelz, 90 Pershing Ave. in South Kingstown.
Whether you live in the rural communities of Burrillville or Coventry, along the coasts of Aquidneck Island, or somewhere in between, together all Rhode Islanders should fight against the climate crisis to preserve beautiful Rhode Island for ourselves and our children.
Sabrina Pereira is a lifelong Rhode Island resident, recent graduate of the Marine Affairs program at the University of Rhode Island, and a NOAA coastal management fellow.