Washington is vulnerable to increased heat, ocean acidification, increased wildfire risk and sea level rise

Washington’s climate has already warmed by one to two degrees Fahrenheit in the last century. Ocean waters are becoming more acidic, threatening the productivity and viability of the ocean ecosystems on the coast of Washington. Rising sea levels threaten the stability of housing and infrastructure projects, as well as increasing the likelihood for flooding which can harm ecosystems, disrupt transportation infrastructure, and pose an increasing risk to human health. Climate change is also likely to double the size of area of forest burned by wildfires each year, threatening homes, disrupting ecosystem health and decreasing timber harvests.  

  • Increasing Temperatures: Extreme heat will increase in the Northwest region. The Northwest will go from experiencing just 5 days of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above temperatures on average per year to an additional 7-15 days of extreme heat by mid-century and an additional 18-42 days by the end of the century.
  • Ocean Acidification: Washington’s coastal water are particularly susceptible to acidification because nearby currents bring more acidic water from deep currents to the surface. Due to increased concentrations of carbon dioxide absorbed in the oceans, Washington waters are even more acidic than usual. Increasing acidity threatens the life cycles of shellfish and other small marine creatures important to the marine ecosystem. Shellfish and plankton are crucial important components of the diet for salmon.
  • Increased Wildfire Risk: By the end of the century, climate change is projected to double the area of land burned by forest fires during an average year. Higher temperatures and lack of water is also likely to make trees more susceptible to pests and diseases like the pine beetle, increasing the likelihood of fire. Due to warmer and drier summers, the Evergreen State could witness wildfires increase from over 494,000 acres at present to over 1.2 million acres by the 2040s.  
  • Sea Level Rise: Sea level rise will threaten coastal development and ecosystems. Erosion will threaten homes and public property along the shore. Increased flooding could threaten wastewater treatment plants, ferry terminals, highways, and railroads along Puget Sound. Mudflats, marshes, and other tidal wetlands provide habitat for birds and fish. As water levels rise, wetlands may be submerged or squeezed between the rising sea and structures built to protect coastal development.
  • Adaptation: In 2009, the Washington State Legislature required state agencies to reduce emissions and develop an integrated climate change response strategy.

Washington residents support clean energy and climate regulations

Washington is a leader in wind energy

  • Washington is a leader in wind energy production. With 3,075 MW of installed capacity, it ranks 9th in the United States. 
  • Washington ranks 30th in solar with 96 MW of installed capacity. About 136 solar companies working in the state provide 3,700 jobs.  
  • The Grand Coulee Dam on Washington’s Columbia River is the largest hydroelectric power producer in the United States, with a total generating capacity of 6,809 megawatts.
  • In 2015, Washington was the leading producer of electricity from hydroelectric sources and accounted for 30% of the nation’s utility-scale net hydroelectricity generation.
  • Although not a crude oil producing state, Washington ranked fifth in the nation in crude oil refining capacity as of January 2016.
  • In 2015, Washington had the lowest average residential retail electricity prices in the nation and the lowest average combined retail electricity price across all sectors.
  • Washington is part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, an effort including California, Oregon, Alaska and British Columbia to cooperate on clean energy and a sustainable future.