The report, “Preparing for a Changing Climate: Washington State’s Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy,” was released this week.
It was prepared by the Washington Department of Ecology in collaboration with the state departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Fish and Wildlife, Health, Natural Resources, and Transportation.
The Washington Legislature and Gov. Chris Gregoire had directed state agencies to develop this integrated climate change response strategy to enable state, tribal and local governments, and public and private organizations to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of changing climate conditions.
The state agencies drew on the policy, management and scientific expertise of a broad range of stakeholders to develop the recommendations that are the basis of the report.
The report outlines strategies for protecting human health, safeguarding infrastructure and transportation systems, improving water management, reducing losses to agriculture and forestry, protecting sensitive and vulnerable species, and supporting communities by involving the public. It lays out a framework that decision-makers can use to help protect Washington’s communities, natural resources and economy from the impacts of climate change.
The strategy is available at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/ipa_responsestrategy.htm
“By taking action now, we have a better chance of protecting Washington’s people, jobs, economy and natural resources from climate change risks, taking advantage of our unique position in the Pacific Northwest to increase our competitiveness and helping build resilient communities,” Gregoire said. “It’s good government and good business to consider climate impacts as part of our ongoing work. That’s what this Response Strategy is about.”
If no action is taken, long-term costs of climate-related impacts are projected to reach nearly $10 billion a year by 2020 from increased health costs, storm damage, coastal destruction, rising energy costs, increased wildfires, drought and other impacts.
“Though we have more to learn, the science clearly shows that impacts from climate change are already occurring in Washington, and are projected to increase,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant. “The impacts to our quality of life are potentially enormous, so it only makes sense that we get smart about minimizing those impacts in the long run. This report is a big first step down that road. And who knows, maybe as people better understand what climate change means locally, we might see more demand for serious greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts.”
Response strategies identified in the Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy include:
-- Protecting human health as increased injuries, sickness and even deaths are expected from infectious diseases, heat stroke and respiratory and cardiovascular disease due to higher temperatures, heat waves and declining urban air quality.
-- Reducing the risks of damage to infrastructure and disruption to transportation systems due to extreme storms, extensive flooding, landslides, and sea level rise. In Puget Sound, structures located in flood hazard areas are valued at $28.7 billion.
-- Improving water management to compensate for reduced stream flows resulting from Washington’s declining snowpack projected to decrease 29 percent relative to the 1971-2000 average by the 2020s. To better manage its water supplies, the state will be implementing more water conservation and efficiency programs, working to ensure sufficient supplies of cold water in salmon-bearing streams in times of increasing water temperatures, and incorporating changes in timing and availability of water when allocating water supplies. Models for the future include Ecology’s current water management work in the Columbia Basin, Yakima and Walla Walla watersheds.
-- Preventing further losses to the $50 billion-a-year agriculture and forestry industries from wildfires, disease, reduced summer water supply and pests that will proliferate under changing climate conditions. The likelihood that wildfires will burn more than 2 million acres in the Pacific Northwest in a given year is projected to increase from 5 percent currently to 33 percent by the 2080s.
-- Protecting sensitive and vulnerable species and the habitat they depend on. Climate change will more likely damage and destroy certain types of habitats, alter natural migration patterns and the presence of pests and invasive species.
-- Supporting the efforts of local communities in engaging the public in determining appropriate responses to climate change. This strategy involves identifying funding to support adaptation work at the local level, encouraging collaboration on and coordination of an integrated climate response strategy at the state and local level and making scientific information easily accessible.