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Rhode Island DEM denies youth climate petition



Update: The board of Nature’s Trust Rhode Island just reached a unanimous decision to appeal the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) denial of the petition in the Rhode Island court system.

From a press release:

Youth and young adult petitioners, Sisters of Mercy Ecology, and Nature’s Trust Rhode Island are dismayed by the decision of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to deny their petition asking for measures based on the best available science to reduce the health and other risks of climate change.

The denial coincides with the Special Report on Global Warming issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In a press release the panel quotes Jim Skea, co-chair of one of its working groups, who stated that “limiting warming to 1.5ºC [2.7 ºF] is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.” The petition of Nature’s Trust Rhode Island is in line with this and with the Washington Post headline The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say.” Clearly, the Raimondo Administration fails to recognize and live up to this challenge.

This response ignores the need for change to happen in Rhode Island and is dismissive of our constitutional rights,” said Chloe Moers of Providence, a 16-year old petitioner and member of the board of Nature’s Trust Rhode Island. “This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately and it affects the well-being of all of us.”

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In contrast with the recent IPCC report and despite the evidence presented in the petition, DEM justifies its denial by stating that the requested measures “would be unprecedented” and not “the only or best approach.” The department offers neither arguments nor alternatives; apparently, it overlooked that proposed approach is used in Oregon and the San Francisco Bay Area, as the petition mentions.

“I am disappointed with the response,” said Alex Duryea, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island and a member of the board of Nature’s Trust Rhode Island. “I really hoped that Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management would have jumped at the opportunity to do more to protect the youth from the impending consequences of business as usual.”

“All that action can do is help, and RI DEM is not willing to help us, or the environment,” said Meghan Janicki, a tenth grade student from West Warwick High School. “We must be willing to take action or make change for anything to get better.”

“It is so disappointing that the state won’t listen to us,” said Philip Tierney, age 14, of East Providence. “Climate change is coming at a rapid pace, and they don’t do anything about it; the future looks scary.”

DEM agrees with petitioners that climate change is “a critical issue affecting public welfare,” and the department lists actions taken by the state, but it fails to mention that Governor Gina Raimondo is on record supporting expansion of the fossil fuel infrastructure in Rhode Island, a major step in the wrong direction.

See: Nature’s Trust begins legal action to compel Rhode Island to take action on climate change