Washington State Completes Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy

On April 3, 2012, Washington State’s Department of Ecology released Preparing for a Changing Climate: Washington State’s Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy. Governor Chris Gregoire and the state legislature directed the Department of Ecology to produce the report and build off the state’s 2009 study – Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment (WACCIA). The integrated response strategy is intended to prepare state and local agencies, businesses, and individuals for the effects of climate change. By taking action now, the report estimates that Washington can limit damage and reduce the costs of climate change, which are estimated to be $10 billion per year by 2020 due to increased health impacts, storm damage, coastal destruction, rising energy costs, increased wildfires, drought, and other factors.

Through its integrated climate change response strategy, Washington strives to influence the short-term and long-term planning decisions of state and local agencies. The report identified seven high-priority strategy areas to:

  • Protect people and communities
  • Reduce risk of damage to buildings, transportation systems, and other infrastructure
  • Reduce risks to oceans and coastlines
  • Improve water management
  • Reduce forest and agricultural vulnerability
  • Safeguard fish, wildlife, habitat, and ecosystems
  • Support the efforts of local communities and strengthen capacity to respond and engage public

For each strategy area, the report stresses greater awareness, flexibility, and long-term foresight. Emergency responders should prepare for increased flooding and wildfire, while public health agencies should increase surveillance of health problems related to rising temperatures. To reduce risk to infrastructure, site planners for new development should account for expanding floodplains. To address changes in water patterns, local governments should coordinate now to better manage water and reduce possible future competition. The report also stresses “no regrets” strategies, meaning policies that would alleviate existing problems or promote sustainability, such as restoring natural floodplains, better managing forests and farm land, or reducing hazardous runoff into waterways. Overall, the report cites a need to increase education and outreach with the public and local stakeholders. By building support for reducing climate risks, Washington hopes to address and mitigate the inescapable effects of climate change sooner and with greater efficiency.

Washington Climate Change Response Strategy Website