November 27, 2014
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City to host interactive climate change workshops
Tracey C. O'Neill
Warwick Beacon photos
TAKE IT TO THE BANK: The Pawtuxet River and Pawtuxet watershed have become increasingly troublesome for the city as it adapts to increased weather activity and resultant flooding.

In the second of a series of workshops, the city of Cranston will host an interactive climate change gathering on Aug. 20.

Inviting the public to participate, the city hopes to educate residents about climate change issues particular to Rhode Island and the Cranston community.

“This isn’t your usual forum,” said Jason Pezzullo, principal planner. “The workshop is set as a role-play, with individuals being chosen to take on an assigned climate-based problem.”

Held in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) Science Impact Collaborative, the Consensus Building Institute, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve, the project, or New England Climate Adaptation Project (NECAP), aims at educating municipalities and their constituents as to the impacts of climate change within their particular community.

“Cranston’s issue and the main focus of the workshop is flooding,” said Peter Lapolla, director of planning. “Sea level rise is of main concern, but locally, in Cranston, it’s flooding.”

The workshop is based on a hypothetical community, similar in demographics to Cranston.

“There is a packet given to all participants,” said Pezzullo. “Each person is given a role and is asked to help solve the problem being presented. Discussion is encouraged regarding allocation of city resources, planning and response procedures.”

The fictional city is designed to be realistic and recognizable by community participants. Member roles can range from leaders and department heads to local chamber of commerce members, with the whole community being represented.

The city is reaching out to residents of Cranston, Warwick, Johnston and all surrounding Rhode Island communities to participate. They hope to have at least 50 active participants in the workshop.

“Sea level rise is happening,” said Lapolla. “ Flooding is happening. We are having events on a continuing basis that used to be 100-year events. Some are 350-year events.”

LaPolla pointed to changing weather patterns locally, including two major hurricanes in two year’s time.

“You can’t point at any one thing and say that it is because of climate change,” said Lapolla. “The frequency and intensity of the storms we are seeing is going off the radar, though. In 2008 and 2010, we saw flooding in areas where we had never seen flooding before.”

Cranston is the only Rhode Island municipality piloting the program, but the program isn’t limited to the city.

“We ran the first meeting with a focus on community leaders,” said Pezzullo. “This meeting, we want to hear from residents and welcome participation from other communities.”

All those who want to participate are asked to contact the town’s planning department at 780-3136 to reserve a spot on the “team.” Each participant will receive a packet explaining the city structure, the assigned problem or tasks and instructions. Roles will be assigned the night of the meeting. Those who are not able to attend will have the opportunity to participate at a later date.

The workshop will be held from 6 until 8:30 p.m.

Whether the problems seen are as a result of man’s intervention or are natural occurrences, according to Lapolla, doesn’t matter. “Whether we like it or not – whether we caused it or not, it’s happening,” he said. “We have to deal with it.”


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