skip navigation
Share this:

Climate Change

This page provides an overview of climate change in Washington State, with an emphasis on local and state governmental responses.


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.

In July 2021, MRSC launched its Local Climate Response Project to provide local governments with the tools, training, and curated resources needed to protect the health and economic vitality of our communities. Read our introductory blog about the project and stay tuned for new resources, upcoming trainings, and blogs.

General Climate Change Resources

The following are some key resources that may be useful to local governments regarding slowing the process of climate change, adapting to it, and addressing 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 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; involved in carbon trading and purchase of carbon offsets

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. This information can help local governments preparing climate action plans and policies dealing with climate change in comprehensive plans.


  • 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. Issues regular assessment reports on the state of knowledge on climate change
  • United Nations - Gateway to the UN Systems Work on Climate Change - UN climate change portal 


  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
  • U.S. Global Change Research Program — Interagency group including government agencies and foundations. Integrates federal research and solutions for climate and global change. See National Climate Assessment, 2014 — Report on climate change impacts on the U.S., including the Northwest region 
  • U.S. Department of Transportation: Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse,—One-stop source of information on climate change impacts on transportation systems and infrastructure. Includes section on State/Local Actions and Policies
  • ICLEI USA — Membership organization of U.S.-based local governments committed to climate protection and sustainability; helps cities to adopt policies and implement quantifiable measures to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and enhance urban livability and sustainability.

General Information on Local Governments and Climate Change

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. Several Washington jurisdictions have taken a leadership role in addressing climate change.

State-Level Resources

In Washington State, the DOE is the primary agency that is working on climate issues. However, there are additional resources.

Local Government Resources

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 Addressing Climate Issues.

Washington Cities

  • Bainbridge Island Ordinance No. 2017-13 (2017) — Establishing climate change advisory committee comprised of "qualified scientific experts" to advise city council and staff members on climate change and greenhouse gas reduction
  • Bellingham Climate Protection & Energy — Includes links to Climate Action Plan (updated 2018); national leader in climate protection by reducing environmental impact of municipal operations
  • Edmonds Climate Action Plan (2010) —
  • Olympia Sea Level Rise — This webpage includes links to the 2019 Sea Level Rise Response Plan and information about the plan's advisory committee
  • Port Townsend and Jefferson County Climate Action Plan (2011) — An effort to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by the year 2050.
  • Redmond Climate Action Implementation Plan (2014) — Details strategies to minimize household, business, and government emissions a
  • Seattle Climate Planning — Includes 2013 climate action plan and 2018 update, adaptation strategies, and greenhouse gas emission monitoring
  • Shoreline 
    • Climate Action Plan (2013) — Identifies 13 categories of performance measures and 43 indicators that will be tracked over time to quantify the progress of the initiative
    • Resolution No. 418 (2017) — Pledging to join the Puget Sound Regional Climate Preparedness Collaborative
  • Tacoma 

Washington Counties

Washington Special Purpose Districts

Legal Issues and Environmental Review of Climate Impacts

The Washington State DOE provides information on the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) as well as the SEPA review process. This section also 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.

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: 

Last Modified: August 05, 2021