The Winds of Change? Exploring Climate Change-Driven Migration and Related Impacts in the Pacific Northwest

Friday, June 24, 2016 – Portland, Oregon

A symposium exploring the question of climate change-driven migration to the Pacific Northwest and its implications for long-range planning. Hosted by Portland State University’s Population Research Center and Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies and the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group.

Plenary Session (open to the public):
9:00 am – 12:30 pm

Billy Frank Jr. Conference Center, Ecotrust
721 NW 9th Avenue
Technical Work Session (invitation only):
12:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Urban Center, Portland State University
506 SW Mill Street

Symposium SummarySpeaker bios | Sponsors | Morning Presentations | Additional Reading

Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on the Pacific Northwest’s communities, economy, and natural systems. Despite these challenges, some have suggested that the Northwest could become home to large numbers of “climate refugees” from other parts of the country and the world.This speculation has led a growing number of public sector professionals to question whether the potential for climate change-driven migration should be included in long-term planning decisions related to transportation, land use, utilities, and other public services. A scarcity of regionally-specific research on this question leaves decision makers and demographers with limited guidance on how to best answer this question, however.

Providing Guidance Now and Direction for the Future: The Climate Migration Symposium

On June 24, 2016, Portland State University’s College of Urban and Public Affairs and the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group convened experts in climate science, population dynamics, and public sector management for a symposium designed to explore the question of climate change-driven migration to the Pacific Northwest and its implications for long-range planning.The symposium included a morning public plenary session designed to cover what the research community can currently say about the potential for climate change-driven migration. The afternoon was a by-invitation-only work session that builds on the morning public plenary to identify and discuss specific information and research needs related to the question of climate change-driven migration to the Northwest. Participants for the morning and afternoon sessions included public sector professionals, demographers, researchers, and interested members of the public and private sector.

Read the symposium summary

Morning Plenary Presentations

Presentations from the morning plenary session are available in PDF format.

Symposium Welcome – Introductions by Portland State University President Wim Wiewel and Dean Stephen Percy; Amy Snover, Assistant Dean for the College of the Environment and Director of the Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington (PDF)

Migration, Urbanization and Climate Change Adaptation: Facts and Challenges – Jose Miguel Guzman, PhD, ICF International (PDF)

Migration Patterns Today and the Factors that Influence Them – David A. Plane, PhD, University of Arizona (PDF)

What Does Current Research Tell Us About How Climate Change Affects Migration Factors? – Robert McLeman, PhD, Wilfrid Laurier University (PDF)

Panel Discussion – Jose Miguel Guzman, ICF; David A. Plane, University of Arizona; Robert McLeman, Wilfrid Laurier University; Tom Armstrong, City of Portland; Crystal Raymond, Seattle City Light; Philip Mote, OSU

Planning for the symposium was done in partnership with researchers, practitioners, and demographers from Portland State University, the Washington Office of Financial Management, Oregon State University, the University of Washington, Metro, The Climate Trust, and the Puget Sound Regional Council.

For More Information

For more information on the migration symposium, contact Lara Whitely Binder (King County Climate Preparedness Specialist,, 206-263-0825) or Jason Jurjevich (PSU Population Research Center,, 503-725-8590).

Additional reading.The following papers are good starting points for more information on the question of climate change-driven migration to western Washington and Oregon.

Program Sponsors

Our sincere thanks to the following program sponsors. Without their support, this symposium would not have been possible.

sponsor logos

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