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Climate change and the Puget Sound: Building the legal framework for adaptation

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Regardless of the efforts governments may take to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and other human activities on climate change, the need for society to adapt to climate change is unavoidable. Adapting to the myriad impacts of climate change will require actions at all levels of government. This article focuses on the anticipated impacts of climate change on the Puget Sound region in the northwestern United States as an example of the range of problems climate change will present and of the solutions available to governments and others interested in avoiding or minimizing the adverse impacts of climate change. As a guide for policy-makers, the article offers general principles for formulating climate change adaptation policies, suggestions for changes in decision-making processes that make them more suitable for addressing the unpredictable impacts of climate change, and strategies for adapting to three specific categories of climate change effects: impacts on the hydrologic cycle, sea-level rise, and altered meteorological conditions. The strategies and recommendations analysed in the article can provide a model for climate change adaptation policies, both in the Puget Sound region and more broadly, that are both environmentally protective and socially equitable.


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