Understanding the Economic Development Opportunity & Impact of Climate Change

This report by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation considers the economic development implications associated with climate change, including preparing for and recovering from extreme weather events. Challenges and opportunities are examined across the following industries: small business, ports and marine trades, tourism, defense/naval, manufacturing, aquaculture, agriculture, and energy. The report is broken up into sections on each of the industries covered. For each industry, the authors discuss climate change considerations relevant to that sector, similar work underway in other states, and next steps for Rhode Island state government, local governments and the business community. Below are some of the conclusions from a selection of the industry summaries:

  • Rhode Island’s port and trade industries have already been planning for the long-term implications of  sea level rise, including changes in navigation, goods handling, and goods storage. For the defense/naval, manufacturing and utility industries, the report focuses largely on climate mitigation and energy independence through use of renewable energy and more efficient technologies. With regard to adaptation, work is already underway in the utility industry to evaluate flood risks to Rhode Island’s electricity infrastructure.
  • The state’s tourism industry, based along the shoreline, employs 1 out of 10 Rhode Island workers. Although businesses in the sector must contend with the negative impacts of climate change, such as increased flood insurance rates and costs associated with building retrofits, the report identifies longer summer tourist seasons as a potential unexpected benefit of climate change to the industry. Nevertheless, because one extreme weather event can have considerable consequences on small businesses and the tourism sector, the report recommends establishing a Tourism Industry Taskforce to inventory tourism assets, and developing a natural disaster communication strategy.
  • Given their reliance on ecosystems, the report identified particular vulnerabilities in the aquaculture and agriculture industries. Fisherman must either adapt their practices to contend with shorter harvest seasons that may result from warming seas, or apply their skills toward other industries. Similarly, as climate change alters how crops are cultivated in New England, farmers must learn and apply new agricultural practices. Adaptation in this industry may require investment in irrigation and cooling technologies, better real-time weather data, and flood control and drainage systems.

Publication Date: April 2014

Related Organizations:

  • Rhode Island Climate Change Commission
  • Rhode Island Commerce Corporation (Commerce RI)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


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