Clean Energy Transformation Act Cumulative Impact Analysis

  • Chris Ahmed, WA Department of Health
  • Jeremy Hess, UW DEOHS Center for Health and the Global Environment
  • Lauren Freelander, WA Department of Health
  • Esther Min, Front and Centered
  • Marnie Boardman, WA Department of Health
  • Jennifer Sabel, WA Department of Health
  • Rad Cunningham, WA Department of Health
  • Elizabet Williams, WA Department of Health

  • Ongoing
  • Washington Department of Health
  • Front and Centered
  • Washington State Department of Health
  • University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences – Center for Health and the Global Environment
  • University of Washington Climate Impacts Group

We produced climate projection data for a state-managed tool that illustrates health and environmental data by location across Washington (known as the Washington Tracking Network Information by Location tool). The tool is intended to help state officials, social justice organizations and power companies take climate change into account in planning during the next several decades. Climate projections for heat and precipitation in the mid-21st century are included for use with the “Environmental Health Disparities” layer of the tool.

USE THE TOOL
To see the climate projections: Visit the tool >> Click on the map features icon >> Select Climate Projections ~2050 

 

Project Background

Health-related hazards including pollution, proximity to hazardous waste and risk of exposure to COVID-19 are not distributed equally across the population. Frontline communities – people of color, Indigenous people and people with low incomes – are more likely to live in areas where they are exposed to these hazards. The Washington Tracking Network Information tool helps to illustrate the disproportionate impact of environmental and health issues.

The impacts of climate change will not be evenly distributed, either. Heatwaves and changes in precipitation will vary geographically and stand to impact frontline communities more than their less disadvantaged neighbors. Both of these climate impacts pose risks to communities: short- and long-term heat events can affect health and well-being; and precipitation can lead to flooding, displacement and lost crop production.

This project builds on previous work identifying communities at risk for environmental and health disparities. With the layers we produced, users will be able to identify communities at higher risk to climate change due to existing disparities. Power companies will use these layers to meet a state mandate to consider the effects of climate change on at-risk communities when planning infrastructure projects.

Photo courtesy of WA Department of Ecology

Approach

For temperature, we projected the number of days per year that exceed the hottest days on record (99th percentile) from the recent past. This provides an idea of the impact temperature might have if communities are not prepared for higher temperatures. We also calculated a measure that reflects the amount of energy an area will need annually for cooling and heating (cooling degree days and heating degree days, respectively). We anticipate that these measures will help utilities prepare for energy delivery in a changing climate. Finally, we calculated the change in average annual precipitation to provide insight into which areas may suffer from more flooding or more drought.

Climate change includes changes in both the intensity and frequency of temperature and precipitation events. We calculated temperature measures using daily data because there is strong evidence that daily high and low projections of temperature are accurate. Precipitation projections are less accurate on a daily basis than on a monthly or yearly basis, so we used a measure based on annual precipitation. As well, the climate can be considered in absolute terms, such as temperature, or in relative terms, such as temperature compared with temperature in the past. We chose a variety of metrics to reflect different aspects of climate so decision makers can make well-informed decisions regarding resource allocation and climate mitigation.

Related Studies and Resources

To learn more about the disproportionate impacts of climate change across Washington State, read our Unfair Share Report.

For an overview of the effects of climate change on Washington State, check out our 10-page brief, No Time to Waste.
Unfair Share ReportNo Time to Waste