Preparing for a Changing Climate: Washington State's Integrated Climate Response Strategy

This report was prepared by the Washington Department of Ecology, offering recommendations on how existing state policies and programs can better prepare Washington State to respond to the impacts of climate change. This response strategy was built in collaboration with the state departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Fish and Wildlife, Health, Natural Resources, and Transportation - integrating the recommendations of the four advisory groups. It also utilizes the best available science on climate impacts from the Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment, as well as Washington’s initial adaptation plan developed in 2008 under Executive Order 07-02.

In recognition of the state’s vulnerability to climate change impacts, the Washington State Legislature directed state agencies to develop this integrated climate change response strategy to enable state and local agencies, public and private businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals to prepare for, address, and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Washington's Governor Gregoire’s May 2009 executive order* reinforced this requirement, directing the Department of Ecology to collaborate with affected local, state, and federal agencies to develop recommendations, guidelines, and tools to address the impacts of sea level rise and changes in water resources.

To protect the communities that are most vulnerable to impacts of climate change, this plan outlines the following actions:

  • Provide tools and and funding to identify the most vulnerable and conduct community-wide assessments
  • Provide vulnerable populations with information on how to prepare for and address the risks of climate change
  • Enhance the capacity of state and local health organizations and communities to implement preventive actions that reduce public health risks related to climate change
  • Enhance the ability of local organizations to understand climate risks and reach vulnerable populations
  • Work collaboratively to improve community planning and design, develop transportation options and evacuation routes, and implement community adaptation, preparedness, and recovery strategies
  • Seek more reliable funding mechanisms to safeguard vulnerable populations

The response strategy describes adaptation strategies and actions in the sectors of: Human health; Ecosystems, species, and habitats; Ocean and coastlines; Water resources; Agriculture; Forests; Infrastructure and the built environment; Research and monitoring; and Climate communication, public awareness, and engagement.  Seven high-priority, overarching adaptation response strategies are identified for all sectors including: to protect people and communities; reduce risk of damage to buildings, transportation systems, and other infrastructure; reduce risks to ocean and coastlines; improve water management; reduce forest and agriculture vulnerability; safeguard fish, wildlife, habitat, and ecosystems; and to support the efforts of local communities and strengthen capacity to respond and engage the public.

*In 2009, the Washington State Legislature approved the State Agency Climate Leadership Act SB 5560, which included provisions in sections 10 through 13 for the formation of an “integrated climate change response strategy” to “better enable state and local agencies, public and private businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals to prepare for, address, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.” The provisions of the Act are codified in RCW 43.21M.


Publication Date: April 2012

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Hedia Adelsman
  • Joanna Ekrem

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan

States Affected:


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