By Lili Bastian, Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellow at the Washington State Department of Ecology
In June, Washington Sea Grant’s Ian Miller gave an introduction to the first objective of the Washington Coastal Resilience Project (WCRP): developing and communicating localized sea level projections using a probabilistic framework for Washington State. To assist local governments in using these projections effectively for shoreline planning decisions, the second objective of the WCRP, led by the Department of Ecology (Ecology), seeks to improve and coordinate the planning guidance of Washington state agencies (Ecology, the Department of Commerce, the Emergency Management Division, and others) so that local governments have a clear and comprehensive framework of planning tools available to address sea level rise.
So, what improvements should be made, and how can different state agencies’ planning guidance be coordinated?
To start investigating these questions, I synthesized seven surveys (see footnote) on climate change and sea level rise perceptions, preparation, and adaptation actions conducted between 2009 and 2016 in coastal Washington cities and counties and nationwide. These surveys were conducted for different purposes and directed toward different target audiences, but each was intended to identify climate change adaptation needs at the local level for state and federal agencies to better support communities. The surveys show that several factors are perceived as barriers to local adaptation action in Washington State, so improved guidance in these areas could be useful:
Barriers to Adaptation Action
So the findings from this synthesis weren’t really shocking, but it did provide more evidence to support our approach to providing better guidance for Objective 2. Thus, in addition to Ecology’s institutional knowledge of what is needed to improve local-level planning, we have some idea of where to start with improving and coordinating state-level guidance. Moving forward, the Objective 2 team at Ecology has three streams of work.
Finally, I’d like to point out that the data-, planning-, and funding-related challenges we’re facing here in Washington are common to communities in other developed nations facing sea level rise. I’m interested by research in Australia, for example, where case studies of local climate adaptation planning have identified quite similar barriers such as general lack of knowledge about what to do, and lack of funding/capacity to integrate adaptation objectives across planning sectors (see Smith et al. 2008 and Measham et al. 2011). And no one has found the silver bullet to solve these problems! So while our goal of creating a more resilient Washington is ambitious, we’re not alone: the state of climate adaptation planning practice is such that advances made and challenges identified by the WCRP are uniquely positioned to both inform and learn from the experiences of global peers— and that’s pretty exciting.
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