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SubjectsEnvironment › Climate Change
Updated 05/2014

Climate Change

Contents

Introduction

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.

International

  • 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 

U.S. Government

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 (Adobe Acrobat Document), 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

Washington State and Regional Governments

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.

Washington Cities

Washington Counties

Legal Issues and Environmental Review of Climate Impacts

This section addresses SEPA review of climate impacts and other legal issues related to climate change.

Comprehensive Plans addressing Climate Issues

This includes climate elements of comprehensive plans and guidance for policies addressing climate impacts.

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

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 (Adobe Acrobat Document), 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: 

 

Need more information?

Feel free to Ask MRSC. Washington cities, counties, and our contract partners can call or email MRSC for more information and advice - free of charge.