Impacts of climate change
Climate change and its impact on King County residents
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Academies, the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and other scientific bodies, recent warming of the climate system is “unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level.”
There is broad scientific consensus that human activities are the most significant factor in the increase in concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases are having an acute impact on Earth’s climate because they trap infrared radiation that would otherwise escape to space. On a global scale, impacts include rising temperatures and sea levels, melting ice caps, diminished coral reefs and fisheries, the spread of vector-borne diseases, and more severe and frequent droughts and floods.
King County faces its own set of challenges related to climate change. Locally, climate change affects snowpack in the Cascade Mountains, stream flows, water supplies and sea level—which in turn affect agriculture, stormwater, wastewater, wildfire risk, forest health, infrastructure and property, hydropower production, human health, salmon and biodiversity, and possibly other sectors that we may not yet foresee. Climate change could have dire effects on the region’s economy and quality of life.
Climate solutions — recommended resources
King County-Cities Climate Collaboration
The King County-Cities Climate Collaboration is a partnership to enhance the effectiveness of King County local government climate and sustainability efforts. As of December 2011, nine cities have joined the Collaboration, supporting climate change and sustainability-related projects and programs focused on outreach, coordination, solutions, and funding.
Washington State Department of Ecology
The Washington State Department of Ecology is an excellent resource for information on: climate change science, Washington state impacts, and state and regional solutions.
Seattle Climate Action Now
The City of Seattle is aggressively responding to the climate change challenge with Seattle Climate Action Now. Seattle Climate Action Now is an effort to give everyone in Seattle the tools needed to start making a real difference at home, at work, and on the road
With support from King County, among other partners, several Washington State agencies are collaborating to develop a strategy for how the region can prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The focus areas are: (1) Built Environment, Infrastructure and Communities, (2) Human Health and Security, (3) Ecosystems, Species, Habitats, and (4) Natural Resources (working lands and waters).
1Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Available: http://www.ipcc.ch/index.htm
2The Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment. University of Washington. March 2009. Available: http://cses.washington.edu/cig/res/ia/waccia.shtml
3An Overview of Potential Economic Costs to Washington of a Business-As-Usual Approach to
Climate Change. University of Washington. Available: http://uonews.uoregon.edu/files/pmr/uploads/WA-Fnl_Rpt.pdf