Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bringing the Paris Talks home: Climate Mitigation in Rhode Island

By Kati Maginel, Education Specialist/Captain

Back in December, we heard from Rachel Calabro about the Paris Climate talks. While global scale agreements are important to keep up with and essential, it’s difficult for me to feel hopeful and connected when Paris seems so far away and my voice and individual actions seem so small.

The good news is that there is climate change mitigation happening right now, in every town and city of Rhode Island! By taking part in community, city or statewide efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, you can help protect the people and places of Rhode Island from the harm that our ecosystems face due to climate change. Here are some things you can tap into, right now, alongside your neighbors.

Students use a globe and blanket to demonstrate the
basic mechanism behind climate change: 
when humans burn fossil fuel, we take carbon
in the form of oil and gas and turn it into
rampant carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This excess carbon
dioxide works like a heat trapping blanket, holding too much
of the sun’s heat into our atmosphere.
Go Solar- Our state has the potential to produce more than twice as much electricity from solar power than the state consumes each year. Cities and towns across Rhode Island are banding together to incentivize solar power.  Join your neighbors today to reduce the cost of installation. 

Drive ElectricElectric cars are almost five times more efficient than gasoline cars, and emit far less carbon, even when charged from the electric grid. They have no tailpipe emissions and produce 80% less heat than a conventional car, reducing the summer heat island effect in cities. Rhode Island is now offering a generous rebate for both electric and hybrid cars. Join the fleet!

Green your home, school and community centers- Did you know that our region has a cutting edge program on energy efficiency?  And that you qualify to participate? Install energy efficient lighting and use National Grid’s programs for audits and upgrades to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to heat and power buildings. Apply for a renewable energy grant

Take part in Meatless Mondays- 100’s of Rhode Islanders cook vegetarian recipes posted on Mondays in the Providence Journal. Eating lower on the food chain means less forests cleared for grazing and less petroleum based fertilizer used to grow feed.

Join or Start a Walking School Bus- Schools in Providence, Newport and Pawtucket have started a walking school bus program, and you can too! Train adults to take turns as the “bus driver” and walk your neighborhood of kids to their school together.

Students further demonstrate the cause and 
solutions for climate change.
Support policy initiatives- Register to vote, read up on local elections, learn about issues on the ballot and petition for the change you wish to see. Learn more about the Energize Rhode Island bill, which will put a price on carbon and level the playing field for renewable energy in our state. 

Over 50% of excess carbon dioxide in our
atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, changing
the pH and leading to more acidic waters. Students
made mini models of this process, allowing
younger children to experiment with the effects
of acidic substances on shells.
Another way to find hope against the “gloom and doom” is to look into voices of change from our youth. Last summer, we trained 15 teachers from Providence Schools as part of their Professional Development week for Project Narragansett. They practiced teaching language, techniques and curriculum for meeting Next Generation Science Standards on climate change. 

The session was thought provoking and extremely helpful for the teachers, and a third of those teachers enrolled their students in our climate program as part of their field trips.  Usually our climate change program takes the back burner to live animals and shoreline explorations; I took this as a good sign! Indeed we were delighted to find that not only was the training thoroughly absorbed by the teachers, but the information, urgency and solution-based approach has trickled down to the students in short time. During the Project Narragansett Teachers in Action Showcase last week, many of the exhibits put together by the students incorporated or focused on climate change. I have inset photos in this blog that were some of my favorite examples. 

I am confident that an educated populous will begin the cultural and societal shift needed to protect and preserve the ecosystems upon which we rely. It’s daunting, it’s huge and it’s uncharted territory, but Rhode Islanders are innovative and willing to take responsibility for the future of our natural resources.  Look how far we’ve come with the health of the Bay so far. Let’s join our efforts to protect our state for future generations!

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