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View: Abstract

Sensitivity of the coastal management system in Washington state to the incorporation of climate forecasts and projections

Johnson, Z.P. 1998. Sensitivity of the coastal management system in Washington state to the incorporation of climate forecasts and projections. MMA thesis, School of Marine Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle.

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to determine whether the coastal management system in Washington State is sensitive to the regional impacts of climate variability and change. Sensitivity is defined as the ability of the management system to respond or adapt to projected or actual changes and variabilities in climate. Sensitivity is assessed by examining whether federal, state, and local agencies with coastal management responsibilities incorporate the use of short to medium range climate forecasts or long range climate projections in decision-making processes. Three case studies are presented which illustrate the significant impacts of climate variability and change: coastal flooding, coastal erosion, and invasive species.

The coastal management systems= sensitivity to the regional impacts of climate variability and change is closely linked to the time horizon within which agency planning is conducted. Sensitivity is highest for agencies which have the ability to adapt within short-to-medium timeframes. These agencies include those with operational, emergency response, and engineering design responsibilities. Land use planning agencies, which typically plan on 5-20 year time horizons, have a more difficult time incorporating climate forecasts and projections into decision-making processes. Overall, however, agencies are significantly hindered from incorporating climate forecasts and projections due to such institutional barriers as legal constraints, the ability to distinguish between climate and anthropogenic impacts, the accuracy and uncertainty in forecasts and projections, and the capacity of agencies to incorporate and understand climate information. The results of this thesis propose that continuing research efforts are needed in the areas of risk assessments, economic analyses, education and training, and policy development.

Coastal managers must realize that designing adaptability into the coastal management system will not only benefit resources and activities vulnerable from known impacts of climate variability and change, but it will also prepare managers for future impacts that are not fully determined by the scientific community. Furthering the education and understanding of coastal managers is key to reducing the potential vulnerabilities of climate variability and change to coastal resources and activities in Washington State