Climate Change

What is Climate Change?

Our Earth is warming. Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.5°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 0.5 to 8.6°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.

The evidence is clear. Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves and wildfires.

The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes – oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.


Transportation is the largest source of climate change-causing pollution in the Puget Sound region.

In February 2017, the Agency's Board adopted economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets of 50% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. These targets are based on the most recent scientific findings on the need to achieve significant emissions reductions to minimize the devastating impacts of climate change.

Since almost half of all GHG emissions in our region are from the transportation and mobile sector, the Agency’s Board of Directors directed staff to identify and evaluate potential candidate actions that could achieve significant reductions in transportation-related GHG emissions. This report provides a summary of those candidate actions.

To achieve the necessary emission reductions according to the Agency’s targets, staff recommends implementing candidate actions in the following three focus areas.

  • Zero-emission vehicle adoption
  • Promote alternative fuel use
  • Influence and increase mode-shift

While we developed the proposed candidate action and GHG emission reduction estimates with the best available information, there are still factors we cannot identify with certainty. What we are certain of is that GHG emissions are directly related to a changing climate that impacts our region, our air quality, and our vulnerable populations. These negative impacts will grow and worsen without actions to reduce our GHG emissions and improve our environment. As our strategic plan guides us, we must help our region “do its part and more to protect our climate.” Success will be challenging, but failing to defend the future is not an option.

Climate Equity

Climate change affects everyone, but it particularly impacts those without the resources to adapt. Pollution from transportation, for example, disproportionately affects underserved communities and people of color. These same communities are frequently left out of the conversation of finding solutions to climate change.

The Agency recently looked more closely at one such solution: electric vehicles. In 2018, we studied low-income communities’ access to electric car-sharing, a service that allows drivers to use a shared vehicle for short-term rentals. Working with nine affordable housing organizations, we surveyed over 600 people about their daily transportation needs and knowledge of electric vehicle transportation.

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