The Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework
In 2010, the State of Oregon released The Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework to help the state prepare for and respond to the effects of climate change. In 2018, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development began working with 23 other state agencies to update the Framework, which was released in 2021. The updated Framework identifies refined adaptation options that can be taken to address climate change-driven impacts on the state’s economy, natural and built systems, public health, cultural heritage, and social systems. Key focal areas for this strategy include improved leadership structure to guide implementation, integration of equity and inclusion in planning and implementation, and tools to encourage cross-agency collaboration. In addition, the 2021 Framework includes the Oregon Climate Equity Blueprint, a suite of “best practices” to guide the integration of equity into climate-informed decision-making by state agencies.
Climate change is already affecting Oregon’s marine environments, forests, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure. Projected future changes in temperatures, precipitation patterns, sea levels, droughts, and wildfires will increasingly affect Oregon’s natural, built, and social systems over time. Given the broad range of possible impacts, it is necessary for the state to prepare for and respond to the effects of future climate conditions. In 2009, the directors of several state agencies, universities, research institutions, and extension services began to develop a climate change adaptation plan for the state. The plan was intended to provide a framework for state agencies to identify authorities, strategies, research, and resources to increase the state’s capacity to address likely impacts. The first Framework was released in 2010 and an update was released in 2021.
The Framework complements the biennial Oregon Climate Assessment Report (OCAR), developed by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI). OCCRI has developed five OCARs. The latest, released in January 2021, provides a state-of-the-science synthesis of observed and projected climate changes and impacts in the state, as well as the differential effects of these changes on frontline communities. For example, wildfires have increased in frequency and size since the 1980s, and the 2020 wildfire season caused extensive damage and destruction of infrastructure, created hazardous air quality conditions throughout the Northwest, and displaced thousands of vulnerable Oregon residents.
In the development of the 2010 Framework, eleven categories of climate risks–defined as the consequences of climate-related changes that are likely to occur over the next four to five decades–were identified. Risks were classified into three levels: very likely, likely, and more likely than not. Once the list of climate risks was finalized, the basic capacities of state agencies to address the risks were assessed, and a list of short-term actions needed to improve adaptive capacity identified. Over 120 short-term actions were identified. Based on the general budget situation for the State of Oregon at the time, the list of possible actions was narrowed down to a set of priority short-term, low-cost actions. A total of 24 actions were recommended to address the top eleven climate risks. Example priorities included:
- Building the capacity of the state’s public health system to prepare for and respond to heat waves and wildfires (e.g., availability of cooling centers, improved information delivery to the public)
- Provide assistance and incentives for wetland and riparian restoration and water conservation and use efficiency; and
- Increasing understanding of and research on changes in ocean temperatures and chemistry, shoreline vulnerability to sea level rise and erosion, and monitoring and surveillance of invasive species and diseases.
In 2018, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, alongside 23 other state agencies, began the effort to update the Framework. State agencies reviewed the progress made on adaptation since 2010. The findings of this review concluded that some state agencies did have success in implementing recommendations, however, the state largely lacks the structure to maintain both strategic and equitable action on climate change. The 2021 update includes necessary steps that the state must take to create a cohesive approach to climate adaptation. These include:
- Establishing a leadership structure comprising multiple agencies and representative of the state’s diverse natural resources and communities;
- Employing best practices of equity, diversity, and inclusion in planning and implementation;
- Conducting a statewide cross-sectoral vulnerability and social resilience assessment to identify sectors and communities most at risk and what resources are most needed;
- Developing tools that support interagency coordination and communication; and
- Mainstreaming adaptation approaches into agency mandates, programs, and budgets (e.g., requiring state agencies to develop adaptation plans).
The revised adaptation strategies are structured around six key themes: economy, natural world, built environment, public health, cultural resources, and social systems. Example strategies include:
- Investing in workforce development and training in renewable and alternate energy technologies;
- Updating design standards and requirements;
- Reducing vulnerability of historic and cultural resources; and
- Prioritizing community-based climate-informed planning and implementation.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The 2010 Framework was an important first step in a long-term collaborative effort to prepare for and adapt to the likely impacts of climate change in Oregon. Several agencies have made progress; examples include:
- The Oregon Health Authority, which developed extreme heat and wildfire smoke public education toolkits, and distributed funds to five localities to develop and implement climate and health adaptation plans;
- The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, which provides restoration, monitoring, and technical assistance grants to support ecosystem resilience and the detection and control of invasive species; and
- The Oregon Department of Transportation, which created a Climate Office in 2020 to spearhead agency mitigation and adaptation efforts.
In addition, several state agencies have developed individual adaptation plans or strategies integrated into existing plans, including the Oregon Health Authority, Department of Transportation, Water Resources Department, and Department of Fish & Wildlife.
The 2021 Framework advances the efforts laid forth in the 2010 document and prioritizes equitable action in reducing climate-related vulnerabilities. In addition, the updated strategies will be integrated into the Oregon Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Kershner, J. and Braddock, K.N. (2021). The Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework [Case study on a project of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. (Last updated March 2021)