Tackling climate change is a priority for us. We're working to protect fish, farms, and Washington's rivers, lakes, and coastline from the damage that rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns will cause.
Climate change describes a change in the average conditions over a long period of time. Scientists agree that the Earth has been getting warmer over the last century due to human activities that require burning fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal).
Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide becomes trapped in the atmosphere (greenhouse gases) and increases the planet's temperature. As the Earth's climate continues to warm the results can have big impacts on the environment.
When people think of climate change, they often only consider extreme weather and rising temperatures. Extreme weather events, like frequent droughts and stronger storms, are examples of what will increasingly occur. All of these changes are emerging as humans continue to add heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
Higher spring and summer temperatures due to climate change cause earlier spring snowmelt. These weather changes cause soils to be drier for longer, increasing the likelihood of drought, and turning forests into kindling, particularly in the Western United States. Wildfires threaten air quality, your health, the economy, and the environment.
When carbon pollution from human activities is absorbed by seawater, the ocean becomes more acidic. These chemical changes
can threaten marine life
, especially shellfish
, corals, and plankton, on which larger marine life depend.
Sea level rise
Rising sea levels are a serious consequence of climate change. On average, sea levels have swelled over eight inches since 1880, with about three of those inches gained in the past 25 years. The oceans continue to absorb heat from greenhouse gases, resulting in thermal expansion, melting glaciers, and loss of polar ice sheets. Rising waters can lead to coastal hazards
such as flooding and habitat changes. Inland, saltwater can contaminate wetlands
, and agricultural soils.
Rising temperatures due to climate change means more precipitation falls as rain rather than snow, reducing snowpack levels, and threatening water supplies for many parts of Washington. In many areas, climate change is likely to increase water demand while water supplies are shrinking. In other areas, an increase in precipitation can lead to flooding, degrading water quality and damaging communities and infrastructure.
Because Earth’s climate is changing faster than at any point in recorded history, it is important to understand and prepare for these changes. We are tracking carbon pollution in Washington, studying its effects on the state's environment, and helping communities prepare for the impacts of climate change.