Climate change, Migration, and the Puget Sound Region


Saperstein, A. 2015. Climate Change, Migration, and the Puget Sound Region: What We Know and How We Could Learn More. Report prepared for the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group. The Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington, Seattle.


This report responds to the interests of Climate Impacts Group and its stakeholders in the claim that climate change will cause an unanticipated surge of newcomers to move to the Puget Sound region. This systematic literature review of media coverage, peer-reviewed social science research, and agency reports assesses this “climate refugee hypothesis” in light of what is known about both the influence of climate change upon migration and the nature of Puget Sound’s existing migration system. A synthesis of this information suggests that a sudden and dramatic population increase is unlikely to occur, given the nature of anticipated climate impacts in Puget Sound’s migration system and the fact that migration into Puget Sound is driven primarily by economic factors. However, climate change could have some effect on population flows, both directly and indirectly through its economic impacts, and population forecasting currently does not fully account for these possible consequences. Many researchable questions remain about the influence of climate forces upon migration into the region both now and in the future. Pursuing one or more of these investigations could better prepare regional public service providers for demographic changes that could result from climate change.