Two days last week, the heat index (an indicator combining temperature and humidity) topped 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If you suspect that summers are getting hotter and longer here, you are right: a count at T.F. Green Airport of days with a heat index over 80 degrees has increased by over two-and-a-half weeks a year since the 1950s and 1960s. All this was predicted by the science of climate change with the dumping of gigatons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels. But the extremes and disasters across the globe show that climate change is no longer something out in the future: it is now, and it is getting much worse. The time for half-measures is past.
Voters in the Democratic primary on Sept. 12 have a clear choice. Gov. Gina Raimondo and her agencies have worked for incremental improvements in the state on climate through energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and programs. These are important, but we need economywide efforts to not just rapidly increase renewables but also speed our transition off fossil-fuel use in the state. Since Rhode Island produces no fossil fuels, as we break our dependency on them we keep more money in the state, creating jobs and local development.
Her opponent, Matt Brown, has laid out some bold approaches that would speed the transition to carbon-free energy and spread the benefits beyond the few wealthy investors and developers. He has come out to oppose the massive fracked natural gas power plant in Burrillville that the governor announced with fanfare and has refused to oppose. And he's signed a pledge not to receive campaign contributions from fossil-fuel corporations. The governor has taken thousands of dollars from the very firms that seek to build natural gas infrastructure in our state, locking us into decades more of dependency on their product, and into terrifying new levels of heat, storms, and sea-level rise. The time for half-measures is past. Vote for the future, as if your children mattered.
Timmons RobertsProvidenceThe author is a professor of environmental studies and sociology at Brown University.