Brown University's Climate and Development Lab and the Stockholm Environment Institute calculated that the state's emissions in 2017 were about 45% higher than estimated in Rhode Island's climate planning study.
The study was based on updated science on methane leakage from natural gas pipes and its short-term impacts. It shows that the state needs to quickly rethink its energy strategy, said SEI Senior Scientist Jason Veysey.
Though the emissions are higher, Brown Professor Timmons Roberts, the climate lab director, said the good news is that emissions can feasibly be reduced much faster than described in the past and the implications of doing so are substantial.
Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, said that climate change is the major issue of our time and that this report highlights "what we know to be true."
"We need to accelerate progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide," she said in a statement Thursday.
The researchers suggest shifting to electric cars and heating systems, insulating homes, getting rid of old appliances and expanding offshore wind development.
They planned to present their findings Thursday to Rhode Island's Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council. Baseline emissions in 2017 went from the previously estimated 10.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents to 15.7 million metric tons, according to the study.
Roberts said the study's ideas can be applied to other states because the big picture is largely the same, due to natural gas leakage.
Brown commissioned the study because the office of Rhode Island's governor, Democrat Gina Raimondo, indicated to researchers it would be interested in deeper emission reduction targets if their feasibility were demonstrated, Roberts added.
Coit said state officials are working to "green" the transportation and heating sectors, and know they have hard work ahead.
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