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Planning for Climate Change

View of wind turbines overlooking a farmClimate change is a consideration for land use, transportation, natural hazards, and coastal management planning. It involves a two-pronged approach: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation consists of actions taken to slow or stop climate change – to keep the problem from occurring. Reduction of greenhouse gases is the #1 example. Adaptation refers to actions that deal with the effects of climate change, such as revising floodplain ordinances to address higher water levels. In general, there are planning strategies that can be applied to address both the causes and effects of climate change.

DLCD is addressing the mitigation and adaptation of climate change in three different topic areas: Land Use and Transportation, Natural Hazards, and Coastal Management.

Climate Change Resources
Combatting Climate Change is Central to DLCD's Work
Climate Change Adaptation Framework Update

Overview of Climate Change in Oregon

The temperature of the earth's surface is warming and it is largely due to an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations caused by human activities. Consequences of this warming are already being felt by Oregonians. Snowpack is declining, summer streamflow is lowering, wildfire activity is increasing, sea level is rising, and coastal waters are acidifying. The consequences of climate change are expected to continue for decades to come. In 2015, global and Oregon temperatures were the warmest on record, and suggests what typical conditions may look like by the middle of this century.

Climate change consequences likely to occur in the Pacific Northwest are:

  • More summer droughts
  • More frequent and longer forest fires
  • Greater vulnerability of forests to insects and disease
  • Water resource conflicts
  • Longer and more intense allergy seasons
  • Decreased water quality
  • More stress on fish, including salmon
  • Higher sea levels and more erosion in coastal areas
  • More frequent and harmful floods

In order to avoid negative impacts, now and in the future, we must both mitigate climate change and adapt to climate change. We must try to reduce or even eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, and we must make preparations and adjustments that will be needed to meet new environmental conditions. All levels of government and society must work together on this problem, and Oregon has already begun.


Third Oregon Climate Assessment Report (2017)
Cool Planning: A Handbook on Local Strategies to Slow Climate Change (2011)

Natural Hazards Planning

Climate change has the potential to make Oregon's natural hazards more frequent and severe, and to bring new natural hazards that we haven't typically experienced. The Oregon Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan (NHMP) identifies eleven natural hazards in Oregon. The natural hazards that will continue to disrupt the lives of Oregonians include: coastal erosion, drought, dust storms, earthquakes, wildfire, floods, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, windstorms, and winter storms. (Your local community, special district, or tribe may have other natural hazards not listed here.) We know that disasters occur as an interaction among natural systems, the built environment, and social systems. What is not predictable is exactly when natural hazards will occur or the extent to which they will affect communities. However, with careful planning and collaboration it is possible to reduce the losses that can occur.

The Risk Assessment portion of the Oregon NHMP includes a description of each of the hazards in Oregon and their relationship with climate change. Natural hazard mitigation is any sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of damage to life, property, and resources from natural hazards. Mitigation is the responsibility of individuals, private businesses, and all levels of government.

As a result of a collaborative effort between Oregon's state agencies and the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI), the Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework was written and published in 2010. The report provides a framework for the continued development of strategies and plans to address future climate conditions in the state.

Land Use and Transportation Planning

The transportation sector accounts for roughly 38% of Oregon's carbon emissions. Therefore, it is important that we look for areas where we can reduce the impact of transportation on the environment. There are three main policy areas for mitigating, or reducing, carbon emissions from the transportation sector: improving fuel efficiency, lowering the carbon content in fuels, and reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).

Looking at these three policy areas, two of the three are largely handled by the state and federal government: regulating fuel efficiency standards and the content of fuels, and encouraging the purchase or use of fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles. However, reducing the amount of driving is addressed locally by promoting strategies that reduce the length of trips and by developing communities that support public transit, biking, or walking for errands, outings, and trips to work.

One of the most important ways communities can reduce driving is to bring land uses closer together. Communities can do this by increasing density and mixing uses. This reduces distances people have to drive, provides more transportation options, and makes walking, biking and transit trips more feasible.

For more detailed information about land use, transportation, carbon emissions, and greenhouse gas reduction, see the Land Use and Transportation Planning for Climate Change web page. 

In September 2019, Governor Brown gave direction for four agencies to implement Oregon's Statewide Transportation Strategy to cut transportation pollution.

Coastal Management and Climate Change

For the Oregon coast, sea level rise will likely be one of the most significant effects of climate change, along with increasing extreme storms and wave heights. These forces can make erosion and other coastal hazards worse.

On the Oregon coast, sea level rise means waves will break closer to the coastline and reach bluff bases more frequently, increasing the rate of erosion and cliff retreat. Dunes are also predicted to retreat under rising sea levels and larger waves. Dunes provide a natural buffer against erosion and flooding. Their retreat will jeopardize their natural buffering function as well as any development located behind the dunes. With higher sea levels, especially in areas with hardened shorelines (e.g. riprap), beach accessibility is likely to decline as the width of the beach decreases. This is problematic not only for people who wish to access the beach, but also for marine animals who utilize the beach, such as seals for haul-out sites, and other tidally-dependent organisms. Hardened shorelines can also prevent habitat (like dunes or wetlands) from migrating upland with sea level rise. With increased levels of erosion and flooding, the threat to oceanfront development will increase, including to private property, and public facilities and infrastructure.

One way to address climate change through coastal land use planning is to understand public assets at risk of flooding now and into the future from sea level rise. The Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) developed an exposure inventory of Oregon's estuaries to serve as a statewide resource for sea level rise planning in and around estuaries. This exposure inventory determines the assets and geographies most likely to be affected by flooding (driven by sea level rise) and prioritized areas to focus future resources and investigation.

Another important effect of increased carbon in the atmosphere is the increased acidity of coastal waters that has already affected natural resources such as oysters, and threatens to affect many more marine and estuarine species. OCMP staff participate on the Oregon Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Task Force and help to maintain their web site.

Additionally, OCMP staff provide ongoing support, education, outreach, and technical assistance to various agencies and organizations on climate change topics at the national, state, and local level. Starting in 2019, OCMP will be leading a statewide effort to update the Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework, which was last completed in 2010. This new effort will focus on action steps the State can take to mitigate and adapt to the various impacts of climate change.

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Christine Shirley
Climate Change Resilience Coordinator
Phone: 503-934-0027

Cody Meyer
Land Use and Transportation Planner
Phone: 503-934-0005

Tricia Sears
Natural Hazards Planner
Phone: 503-934-0031

Meg Reed
Coastal Shores Specialist

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