It’s time Rhode Islanders get serious about the threat climate change presents to property, roads and outdated drainage systems, says Grover Fugate, executive director of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council.
Though there are plenty of skeptics, sea-level rise and extreme weather are signs that business, community and state leaders can’t afford to ignore, say Fugate and other environmental leaders.
“We have to get businesses and community and state leaders to discuss the risks and the potential solutions,” said Fugate, at a meeting of the Rhode Island Bays, Rivers and Watersheds Coordination Team at the Statehouse on Jan. 8. The meeting served as an update for about 50 legislators and state leaders on the R.I. Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan, called Beach SAMP, a four-year project launched in April 2013.
While work on the SAMP is ongoing, the meeting primarily served as a call to action.
“We’d like to see businesses begin to make assessments of their structures and see if they’re capable of withstanding these intense storms,” Fugate said.
Whether Rhode Island’s business community is taking the climate change warnings seriously depends on which business you talk to.
“I’ve worked in the marine industry for more than 40 years and as far as the science, I think we are undergoing climate change,” said Tom Johnson, who was vice president of business development for Senesco Marine in North Kingstown for more than five years until he retired in December. “You can’t alter things as much as the industrial world as done without some ramifications.
“But I think climate change is way back on the list of things businesses have to deal with because it’s such a slow-moving event,” said Johnson.
“I haven’t noticed any sea-level rise in 40 years,” said Bill Munger, owner of Conanicut Marine Services in Jamestown.