Climate Change Adaptation by Washington State Agencies: Implementation and Performance


Ziff, D. 2017. Climate Change Adaptation by Washington State Agencies: Implementation and Performance. Master’s Thesis, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.


In 2009, the Washington State legislature passed the Washington State Climate Leadership Act which, among a number of climate mitigation measures, directed state agencies to collaboratively produce an integrated climate response strategy and use that strategy when planning or designing agency policies or programs. Washington’s Integrated Climate Response Strategy (WICRS) was published in 2012. Not long after, an informal network of climate adaptation practitioners from several state agencies (ICAN), described an interest in understanding the status of their climate adaptation planning. In response to this interest, the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group in collaboration with the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs designed a study to answer: (1) What is the status of climate change adaptation across and within Washington State agencies? (2) What approaches are other states employing to track performance on adaptation plan implementation? (3) What types of monitoring and evaluation frameworks can agencies apply to their adaptation efforts going forward? Primary and secondary data was collected and analyzed using a performance measurement framework through a review of agencies’ adaptation activities related to WICRS, an online survey, focus group discussions, and a review of survey results designed and disseminated by ICAN leadership. Throughout the research process, ICAN was updated on the study’s findings and relevant feedback was integrated into the study’s design. This research provides evidence of some state agencies’ active engagement in climate adaptation activities and subsequent implementation of WICRS, but the use of the Strategy in driving these activities is limited. Unlike some other US states engaging in climate change adaptation, Washington has no implementation plan or centralized method of tracking or reporting climate adaptation efforts. This research suggests that Washington State agencies can use a logic model framework derived, in part, from WICRS to track, coordinate, and compare their adaptation efforts. The information acquired through that practice could be used to demonstrate compliance with the state mandate, report performance to stakeholders, and evaluate the impacts of adaptation interventions on Washington State’s climate preparedness.