Regional Challenges Overview Paper: Climate Change Regional Open Space Strategy (ROSS)
The Central Puget Sound, consisting of King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, is a dynamic region featuring iconic species and habitats, thriving communities and built systems, and vibrant industries, including aerospace, information technology, military, maritime, tourism, and recreation. The region faces many challenges. Climatic changes, coupled with land use changes, population growth, resource extraction, habitat degradation, pollution, and rapid development, all have important implications for the ecosystem services on which approximately 3.8 million people rely (U.S. Census, 2013).
The region’s natural and built systems are at risk from the effects of a changing climate, including increased average temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, altered hydrology (e.g., decreased snowpack, flow patterns), altered oceanic and atmospheric circulation, sea level rise, and changes in water chemistry and quality (Snover et al. 2005). These changes are having and will continue to have cascading impacts such as increased disturbances (e.g., fire, insect outbreaks), inundation of low-lying coastal areas, erosion, habitat loss, infrastructure damage, heat-related illnesses, increased vector-borne diseases, and stress on water supplies and quality (Snover et al. 2013); adaptation and mitigation actions can reduce the magnitude of these effects.
The primary challenges facing climate mitigation and adaptation in the Central Puget Sound region are related to:
- Understanding the risks posed by a changing climate and identifying appropriate responses;
- Increasing capacity (financial, institutional) to implement and sustain climate responses across jurisdictions and sectors (e.g., public and private);
- Generating and sustaining interest and political/stakeholder will over time, especially in relation to other pressing issues and priorities (e.g., economic problems, balancing the costs of inaction versus no action)
- Alleviating the disproportionate environmental and health effects of climate change on the most vulnerable citizens (i.e., low-income families, elderly, infants);
- Coordinating existing climate response efforts throughout the region;
- Uncertainty of the timing, magnitude, and in some cases direction of change, and knowing what strategies to pursue and within what time frame; and
- Monitoring the effectiveness of climate responses and adjusting activities and investments if needed.