Publications

The Winds of Change? Exploring Climate Change-driven Migration and Related Impacts in the Pacific Northwest: Symposium Summary

Citation

Whitely Binder, L.C. and J. Jurjevich. 2016. The Winds of Change? Exploring Climate Change-driven Migration and Related Impacts in the Pacific Northwest: Symposium Summary. June 24, 2016, Portland, Oregon: Portland State University Population Research Center (Portland, Oregon) and the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group (Seattle, Washington).


Abstract

In recent years, speculation by the media, bloggers, and the public about the potential for large numbers of “climate refugees” coming to the Pacific Northwest has led to a growing number of questions about the potential for climate change-driven migration to the Northwest and whether long-term planning decisions related to land use, transportation, utilities, and other public services need to account for higher population levels. Recognizing the need for expert-based guidance on the issue, Portland State University, the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, and 15 other public agencies and communities in Washington and Oregon convened a first-of-its-kind symposium on June 24, 2016, to discuss whether the Pacific Northwest should be planning for more growth as a result of climate change, and if so, to outline the appropriate steps for producing population forecasts informed by climate change-driven migration.

Discussions at the symposium clearly indicated a desire and a need among public sector decision makers to better understand if and how climate change-driven migration may affect existing assumptions about population growth in the region. However, most participants felt it would be premature to make changes to current population forecasting models. Instead, demographers, researchers, and decision makers should work on identifying the additional data, information, methodologies, and modeling needed to systematically assess the question of climate change-driven migration. Together, these findings underscore the importance of expanding research and information around climate change-driven migration in the Northwest.