The concern about climate change has been widely recognized on a global, national, and regional level. "Global warming" refers to increases in global temperatures resulting from an accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons. These gases trap the sun's heat as it is radiated from the earth, and prevent it from escaping back into space. State and local governments are addressing climate change in their plans and policies and starting to take actions to reduce greenhouse gases.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the earth's surface temperature has risen by about one degree Fahrenheit in the past century, with accelerated warming during the past two decades. Most warming over the last 50 years is attributed to human-caused global warming.
Around the world and in the Pacific Northwest, noticeable changes in natural resources and plants and animals have been associated with this warming, from shrinking glaciers and mountain snowpacks to altered migratory patterns. These changes are expected to continue as global warming intensifies.
This webpage provides links to basic information about climate change, particularly regional climate change in the Pacific Northwest. It emphasizes state and local efforts to address issues associated with climate.
If you have information to share or are aware of other websites that we should link to, please contact Carol Tobin, Planning Consultant or call (206) 625-1300.
General Climate Change Resources
The following are some key resources that provide general information about how to slow down the process of climate change and address its impacts.
- ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability - ICLEI is an international membership association of local governments committed to advancing climate protection and sustainable development
- Center for Climate and Energy Solutions(C2ES) - Comprehensive site of independent nonprofit organization dedicated to providing credible information and innovative solutions in the effort to address energy issues and global climate change. Offers a comprehensive collection of scientific and public policy information regarding climate change
- Climate Communities - National coalition of cities and counties that works with federal policymakers regarding the important role of local governments in addressing climate change and promoting a strong local-federal partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Climate Solutions - Practical Solutions to Global Warming - Northwest nonprofit organization spearheading a regional approach to global warming solutions
- The Climate Registry - Nonprofit collaboration that sets consistent, transparent standards throughout North America for businesses and governments to calculate, verify and publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions in a single registry
- The Climate Trust - Nonprofit organization that specializes in climate solutions for governments, utilities, and large businesses
Scientific and Public Policy Information Related to Climate Change
From the international level, including the United Nations, to Washington State and local governments, global warming and climate impacts have been the focus of considerable attention in recent years. The Northwest has been on the leading edge of climate issues, from both scientific and public policy perspectives.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - An international body established by the World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC is the definitive source of mainstream scientific consensus on climate science and projections of climate changes and impacts.
- IPCC Reports - Regular assessment reports of the state of knowledge on climate change
- United Nations - Gateway to the UN Systems Work on Climate Change - UN climate change portal
Northwest Climate Information - University of Washington
In Washington State, the University of Washington has conducted valuable research on regional climate change and provided scientific data and policy analysis on global warming and climate issues.
- Climate Impacts Group (CIG) - An interdisciplinary research group studying the impacts of natural climate variability and global climate change on the Pacific Northwest. The CIG works with planners and policy makers to apply this information to regional decision making processes
- Special Reports - Links to recent reports of the Climate Impacts Group, including the following:
- Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Washington State: Technical Summaries for Decision Makers (), Snover, A.K, et al., Climate Impacts Group and Washington State Department of Ecology, 12/2013 - Summarizes existing knowledge about the likely effects of climate change on Washington State and the Pacific Northwest, with an emphasis on research since 2007
- Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments (), Snover, A.K. et al., Climate Impacts Group, King County, and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, 2007. Intended to help local, regional, and state government decision-makers prepare for climate change by recommending a detailed, easy-to-understand process for climate change preparedness based on familiar resources and tools
- Office of the Washington State Climatologist (OWSC) - The State Climatologist collects, disseminates, and interprets climate data. This site provides links to sources of climate data and seasonal forecasts for the state of Washington
Washington State and Local Government Response to Climate Change
Washington State has played a leadership role in addressing climate change. ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability, assists cities and counties in the U.S. and other countries in addressing climate change. Many Washington jurisdictions have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Seattle, King County, Bellingham, and Olympia are among the Washington jurisdictions that have taken a leadership role in addressing climate change.
General Information on Local Governments and Climate Change
- ICLEI USA - Membership organization of more than 450 local governments in the U.S. committed to climate protection and sustainability; Assists cities to adopt policies and implement quantifiable measures to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and enhance urban livability and sustainability. Offers Sustainability Planning Toolkit for members only
- Small Communities Toolkit, ICLEI - Designed to help communities of 25,000 people or less launch and maintain climate, energy, and sustainability initiatives.
- Climate Protection Center, U.S. Conference of Mayors - Provides guidance and assistance in city efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to climate change
- U.S. EPA
- Climate Change, Local Government Environmental Assistance Network (LGEAN) - Issue summary and links to key resources
- Policy Guide on Planning and Climate Change (), American Planning Association, Updated 04/11/2011
- Local Sustainability and Climate Policy: More Talk than Action? by Jessica Terman, University of Nevada, Reno and Richard C. Feiock, Florida State University, Alliance for Innovation, 07/03/2012 - Report examines how local governments see their role in promoting energy conservation and sustainability based on a 2010 national survey of local government managers in U.S. cities conducted by Florida State University
- Growing Wealthier: Smart Growth, Climate Change and Prosperity (15 MB), by Chuck Kooshian and Steve Winkelman, Center for Clean Air Policy, 01/2011
Washington State and Regional Governments
- Washington State Climate Policy Laws and Executive Orders, Policy Framework (2005-2010) - Summary of all legislation and executive orders passed or issued in Washington State through 2010 that serve to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or otherwise address climate change
- 2013 Legislation - ESSSB 5802, Ch. 6, Laws of 2013 - Greenhouse Gas Emissions--Targets. Regarding the development of recommendations on how to achieve the state's greenhouse gas emissions targets. Follow-up Report to the Legislature, 01/30/2014
- Climate Change, Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) - The place to start for information on Washington State policy on climate change; also see Climate Change Publications
- Washington State Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy 04/03/2012 - Outlines state strategies for responding and adapting to changing climate conditions
- 2010 Climate Change Comprehensive Plan - "Path to a Low-Carbon Economy," Report to Governor Gregoire and the Washington Legislature, 12/2010
- Washington Department of Commerce, Climate Change and Energy - Information on climate change mitigation and adaptation
- Sustainable Washington 2009: Planning for Climate Change, Washington Chapter, American Planning Association - Award-winning resource document for planners involved in sustainability and climate change issues; emphasizes actions that planners can take to mitigate the effects of climate change and to adapt to unavoidable impacts associated with global warming
Washington Local Governments
This section includes ordinances and resolutions related to climate change, green task forces, and climate action plans. Also see the sections below on Legal Issues and Environmental Review of Climate Impacts and Comprehensive Plans and Benchmarking Reports Addressing Climate Issues.
Legal Issues and Environmental Review of Climate Impacts
This section addresses SEPA review of climate impacts and other legal issues related to climate change.
- King County
- Washington State Department of Ecology
Comprehensive Plans addressing Climate Issues
This includes climate elements of comprehensive plans and guidance for policies addressing climate impacts.
- Planning for Climate Change: Addressing Climate Change through Comprehensive Planning under the Growth Management Act (), Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (now Department of Commerce), 12/2008 - Includes policy recommendations (including possible changes to state statutes) and funding options for strategies to address climate change
- Model Policies for Greenhouse Gases in General Plans (), California CAPCOA, 06/2009 - Model policies developed for California communities but applicable to Washington city and county comprehensive plans as well
- Bellingham Comprehensive Plan, Ch. 9 Environmental Element, Part 6 - Climate Change Adaptation
- Edmonds Comprehensive Plan, Community Sustainability Element (), 2009
- Seattle Comprehensive Plan, Environmental Element () - See section E - Climate Change
- King County Comprehensive Plan 2008, Ch. 4, Environment, Part II. Climate Change ()
- Lynnwood Comprehensive Plan Energy and Sustainability Element ()
Local Governments Outside Washington State
These are model programs from cities in other states.
- Boulder, CO Climate Action page - Useful model for other jurisdictions; Boulder has a climate action plan tax
- Portland, OR Climate Action Plan, 2009 - Ambitious, far-reaching plan. Roadmap to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels
Oregon, California, and British Columbia Links on Climate Change
- British Columbia
Carbon Trading and Cap and Trade
Emissions trading is an administrative approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants. It is also called cap and trade. Carbon trading is emissions trading specifically for carbon dioxide (calculated in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) and currently makes up the bulk of emissions trading.
A central authority (usually a government or international body) sets a limit or cap on the amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. Companies are issued emission permits and are required to hold an equivalent number of allowances (or credits), which represent the right to emit a specific amount. The total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level. To be effective, cap and trade gradually steps down the “cap” limits over time. Companies that need to increase their emission allowance must buy credits from those who pollute less. The transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. (Definition adapted from Wikipedia)
- Cap and Trade, U.S. EPA - Links to a variety of resources on this topic
- Cap and Trade (), Climate Change 101, Pew Center on Global Climate Change - Useful explanation of cap and trade program, including benefits and how to design it
- Cap and Trade - A Primer, AWC - Includes glossary of key terms, 08/01/2008
- Carbon Footprint Calculators, RecyclingCenters.org - Tools to help estimate the amount of greenhouse gases released into the environment
Sea Level Rise
Coastal communities in Washington State face considerable challenges with rising sea levels. Only a few inches of sea level rise can make a difference in flooding associated with increased rainfall and more intense wind, storm surge, and tides. In Washington State, the Department of Ecology (DOE) is the primary agency that is working on climate issues. The following are selected resources for local governments to use in addressing sea level rise associated with climate change:
- Adapting to Climate Change: A Planning Guide for State Coastal Managers (), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2010 – Helps coastal managers develop and implement adaptation plans to reduce the risk associated with climate change impacts affecting their coasts
- Adaptation Tool Kit: Sea Level Rise and Coastal Land Use – How Governments Can Use Land-Use Practices to Adapt to Sea-Level Rise (), Georgetown Climate Center, 2011 – This helpful toolkit is a great resource for planners
- Synopsis of an Assessment: Policy Tools for Local Adaptation to Sea Level Rise, by Barbara J. Lausche, Technical Report #1419, Mote Marine Laboratory, 10/2009 – Excellent paper; focuses on Florida but includes many recommendations relevant to Washington’s coastal communities
- Appendix A: Addressing Sea Level Rise in Shoreline Master Programs (), Shoreline Master Program Guidebook, Washington State Department of Ecology
- Sea Level Rise and Coastal Hazards webpage, Washington State Department of Ecology - Brings together many useful reports, resources, and mapping and visualization tools
- Coastal Hazard Resilience Network - New online collaboration tool; connects people to coastal hazard experts in Washington State
- Digital Coast, NOAA – Includes a host of tools and information, such as:
- Coastal Resilience Network , The Nature Conservancy
- Managed Coastal Retreat ( 24 MB), by Ann Siders, Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law, 10/2013 - Tools, Case Studies, and Lessons Learned that draws on the framework of tools identified in documents such as the Georgetown Climate Center Tool Kit
- Sea Level Rise: A Challenge for Washington’s Coastal Communities, by Carol Tobin, MRSC Insight, 04/28/2014 - Article focuses on what local governments can do to address climate change, including the use of planning tools, regulatory approaches, spending tools and incentives, and leadership opportunities