Rhode Island hit by weather disasters every year since 2010

Media Contacts
Channing Jones

Global warming to bring more extreme weather

Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center

Interactive Online Map Shows County-by-County Weather-Related Disaster History

Providence – Nearly six months after Hurricane Sandy and just over two months after Winter Storm Nemo, a new Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center report finds that weather-related disasters are already affecting hundreds of millions of Americans, including all Rhode Island counties, and documents how global warming could lead to certain extreme weather events becoming even more common or more severe in the future.

The report, In the Path of the Storm, finds that every Rhode Island county has been hit by at least one federally declared weather-related disaster since 2007, and that the state has been hit with such disasters each year since 2010. Hurricane Sandy is among the extreme weather events outlined in the report.

“The State of Rhode Island has endured the consequences of extreme weather, with serious problems for our health, safety, environment, and economy,” said Channing Jones, Program Associate with Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center. “Given that global warming will likely fuel even more extreme weather, we need to cut dangerous carbon pollution now.”

“Extreme weather has hit Rhode Island hard in recent years, especially in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy ripped through the state and caused massive damage to our coast and to people’s livelihoods,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “We can no longer sit idly by, watching the predictions of climate scientists come true before our eyes. It’s time to wake up and start fighting the dangerous effects of carbon pollution.”

The report examines county-level weather-related disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 2007 through 2012. The complete county-level data can be viewed through an interactive online map. The report also details the latest science on the projected influence of global warming on heavy rain and snow; heat, drought, and wildfires; and hurricanes and coastal storms. Finally, the report explores how the damage from even non-extreme weather events could increase due to other impacts of global warming, like sea level rise.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Since 2007, federally declared weather-related disasters have affected all five Rhode Island counties.
  • Weather-related disasters have affected Rhode Island in each of the past three years: Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and severe storms and flooding in 2010.

“Extreme weather is happening, it is causing very serious problems, and global warming increases the likelihood that we’ll see even more extreme weather in the future,” said Jones. “Carbon pollution from our power plants, cars and trucks is fueling global warming, and so tackling global warming demands that we cut emissions of carbon pollution from those sources.”

Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center called on decision-makers at the local, state, and federal levels to cut carbon pollution by expanding efforts to clean up the largest sources of pollution, shifting to clean, renewable energy, using less energy overall, and avoiding new dirty energy projects that make the carbon pollution problem even worse.

The report was released two months after Rhode Island officials joined officials from eight other states in announcing a new agreement to make deeper cuts in power plant carbon emissions that would lead to a 20 percent reduction over the next decade. The states must now revise their rules in order to carry out the agreement.

“In the wake of Winter Storm Nemo, Hurricane Sandy, and Hurricane Irene, the Northeast must double down on its commitment to lead the nation in reducing the pollution that’s warming the planet and changing our climate,” said Jones. “We look forward to working with Rhode Island officials as they follow through on their commitment to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and reduce carbon pollution from power plants.”