Drastically and rapidly reducing the amount of fossil fuels we burn requires an all-out effort, from individuals and households to businesses and governments. For example, the state of Rhode Island is largely focused on implementable small projects that nibble around the emergency’s edges when what is needed is building big-impact efforts.

Those efforts need to start with the transportation sector, which accounts for nearly 40% of Rhode Island’s greenhouse gas emissions — the state’s largest percentage of climate-changing pollution. Until we get serious about building an efficient and reliable public transit system and significantly reducing vehicle miles traveled, any progress we make with smaller but important efforts will be negated.

Jamie Dickerson, senior director of clean energy and climate programs for the Acadia Center, noted the complexity of my question.

“There are a number of instructive ways to break this question down. One could approach it by economic sector, from a societal or governmental perspective, or from an individual’s or household’s viewpoint,” he wrote. “In our answer, we’ve opted to interpret ‘we’ broadly, meaning we’ve highlighted universal pillars of action that all actors in our society — from policymakers to corporations and households — will need to pursue swiftly to transition us off our reliance on fossil fuels and drive down our emissions, both here in Rhode Island and across the region, nation, and globe.”

Dickerson noted that all five of the Acadia Center’s steps are “underway in some sense, but they all must be accelerated and expanded to avert the worst impacts of climate change.”

Maximize efficiency. Reduce energy consumption and vehicle miles traveled through vital investments in an energy-efficient building stock and a robust public transit system.

Deploy renewables. Build wind, solar, other renewables, and energy storage rapidly to green our electricity supply, aided by significant new transmission line capacity and grid-enhancing technologies to help even more green electrons flow through our power lines, existing and new.

Electrify our end uses. Decarbonize our buildings and vehicles, primarily by converting from combustion technologies — e.g., boilers and furnaces, internal combustion engine vehicles — to efficient, electric technologies such as air- and ground-source heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, thermal energy networks, electric vehicles, and zero-emission buses and trucks.

Build a flexible, dynamic grid. Revamp our utility regulatory system and our grid to be more intelligent and dynamic and to better harness the abundant new flexibility provided by distributed energy resources, from EV charging and heat pump hot water heaters to smart thermostats, solar+storage systems, and other grid-interactive technologies.

Invest and innovate. Invest in deploying cleaner energy in every sector of the economy via both the public and private sectors, and for the most challenging remaining sectors to decarbonize — heavy industry, shipping, aviation — we must support research and development for breakthrough technologies, pursue first-of-their-kind green procurements, and be a laboratory for piloting and demonstrating new solutions.

To read the full article from ecoRI, click here.