Where are Portland’s climate refugees?

 by Bob Clark

We Portlanders hear rumblings in the halls of our county and regional governments about a potential population spike resulting from global warming. In this scenario, people supposedly flee from southern states to places of more temperate climate such as the Portland Metropolitan Area (PMA), causing the latter an incremental surge in population. Metro Oregon Government (Metro) does not include this specific scenario in its published population forecasts, but you frequently hear of government planners and even Metro President Tom Hughes speak of this potential scenario. This Climate Refugee Scenario got its launch in 2008, when a city of Portland Water Department planner (Lorna Stickel) asked a Metro economist, “Does the population projection…account for the possibility of climate change refugees?” (“Look Out, Oregon, for a global warming land rush;” Jeremy Lang, The Oregonian, October 5, 2008.)

Since the launch of the Climate Refugee Scenario in 2008, a new census has been taken by the U.S. Census Bureau for the year 2010. The notion of global warming itself dates back decades, being popularized as a governmental issue by Al Gore back in the 1990s when he was Vice President. One should think for the Climate Refugee Scenario to have significant veracity (at this time) the last two decades would show actual rates of population growth in the PMA and Metro area higher than those of Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida. Yet the actual population data for the last two decades of global warming show quite the opposite. Here are the actual average annual population growth rates by area and state for the ten years 2000 through 2010: Seven county PMA (1.45%), three county Metro area (1.29%), Oregon (1.14%), Texas (1.89%), Arizona (2.22%), Nevada (3.06%), and Florida (1.64%). Clearly, harsh climate in southern states doesn’t seem to be especially boosting Metro area population, and more likely other factors remain most prominent in explaining population growth differentials. (See more population data below.) One might also think if by the year 2060 (Metro Government’s forecast horizon) southern state climates were to become drier than currently per scenario, projects might be launched to bring surplus waters from northern tier states to southern tier states. Clearly, the Climate Refugee Scenario is steeped in speculation.

The Oregonian article referenced above does note skepticism of the Climate Refugee Scenario even among Oregon environmental and government leaders. Metro President Hughes seems to be using the Climate Refugee Scenario to help justify expanding the urban growth boundary (a bit more than otherwise). Expanding the urban growth boundary may be a good thing seeing how local area business leaders complain of a shortage of shovel ready industrial sites (per a 2010 Westside Economic Forum gathering of business leaders). I just wish our local governments would stop using sensationalism to move an issue through the morass of government processes; or perhaps better yet, drop both the sensationalism and the government morass. I also wonder if we will ever be able to raise our relative ranking in incomes and wealth when our various governments seem to operate on rather extreme and/or speculative beliefs.

Perhaps, too, the Climate Refugee Scenario is symptomatic of an over indulgence in government planning works. After all, the Oregonian article referenced above ends with the city of Portland Water Department planner saying [seemingly gleefully] about the Climate Refugee Scenario, “Plan, plan, plan.”



Population by County and State (U.S Census Bureau via U.S Department of Agriculture data bank)






2010/’00 2010/’90


(avg.ann % change)

Multnomah co.






Washington co.






Clackamas co.






subtot (Metro):






Yamhill co.






Clark co.






Skamania co.






Columbia co.






total (PMA):








































New Mexico



















Look out, Oregon, for a Global warming land rush” link: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/10/look_out_oregon_for_a_global_w.html

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Posted by at 05:15 | Posted in Global Warming, Metro, Portland Politics | 36 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Stoned

    I bought several hundred acres near Williams for just this scenario.
    Now, no one has come, but I am still OK as I use the land to grow medical MJ.

  • Stoned

    I bought several hundred acres near Williams for just this scenario.
    Now, no one has come, but I am still OK as I use the land to grow medical MJ.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    The UN tried to pull this stunt a few years back as well. Claiming, in 2005, there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010 the UN rather clumsily tried to disappear the evidence from their website when the prediction didn’t pan out. Census data in the Seychelles, the Bahamas etc. roundly debunked the UN claims.

    The explanation followed the usual scenario. At first disavowal the prediction, then an attempt to portray it as never having been a hard prediction but simply a possibility. Word like “peer revue”, “vast consensus” etc. were thrown up like chaff lest the obvious conclusions about credibility be made.

    It’s an age old ply, probably used from the dawn of humanity by end of the world predictors. The method is simple – throw up a lot of predictions. If one even comes close to being fulfilled, claim it and attempt to establish credibility for your prophecy. For those that don’t come true, disavow them.

    It’s an interesting facet of the professional end of the world predictor. His success in making a living in the field depends not on his ability to predict the future but in his skill at disavowing his false projections.

    Anyone can predict earthquakes if the prediction is made every day one will occur. How well one covers up those false predictions, is now much more determinative in the success of the scam than one time that days prediction does coincide with an earthquake. 

  • the real valley person

    So the earth is not warming, and carbon emissions have nothing to do with it? Or is this a shift to “who cares” mode?

    Texas and much of the Southwest are in the midst of their longest, worst drought on record.  Farmers are going broke left and right for lack of water. Texas had more days over 100 this year than any year previous. We will see how well they hold up on net immigration if this continues.

    • Bob Clark

      Oregon is also having its typical fires this summer, too.  The Southeast had a drought going a couple of years back but just got drenched by remnants of a hurricane.  Tropical storms make their way into Texas from time to time.  Supposedly climate change can bring more than normal precipitation to some parts via increased tropical storm activity and the like.  There seem to be no fixed ways to actually measure climate change suppositions, as longrun climate models continue to evolve themselves. 

      As usual, we don’t actually know what “tomorrow” will bring.  At this point, it’s all a matter of speculation.  Local government should not over govern to such speculation as it seems inclined to do.  At this point, I’d much rather have these macro planners re-assigned to weighing individual permit requests (weighing any actual demonstrated local externalities and any compensating remedies if needed).  The latter activity might actually help boost economic activity rather than send doubts about investing in Oregon with its smothering government macro thought processes.

      You know what’s kind of ironic, too, is here you have local government pushing hard on the low carbon impact lifestyle; and yet at the same time, the same local government wonders it probably won’t make any difference as we will still get climate change refugees.  It is after all called GLOBAL warming, and we all know very well the concept of free rider.

      • the real valley person

        A parched southwest was predicted by the same climate models you disparage.  So if you are going to criticize them for what they got wrong (climate refugees) then acknowledge what they got right. Be intellectually honest.

        Oregon is having fires, yes. But they are not due to drought conditions. They are (mostly, but not all) due to an unnatural buildup of fuels because of past fire surpression.  The high cascade fires near Sisters and Mt Hood are burning through a lot of dead trees that should have burned up years ago. On the other hand, climate change has increased forest diseases in Oregon, which has killed a lot of those trees.

        Sure there are fixed ways to measure the accuracy of the models. They are based on a set of assumptions. If the assumptions are accurate, then the change should be reasonably close to what has been modeled. And guess what? The models showed almost the exact amount of global warming that has been measured over the past 30 or so years as carbon in the atmosphere has increased. And other models showed increased drought conditions in places like the Southwest and Australia, which have happened. And they showed an increase in major storm events, which appears to be accurate as well.

        Its not just “speculation.” Its science. Science measures. It does not speculate. Global warming is scientific fact, not politics. Weather we choose to do anything about it is politics. And we ignore scientific fact at our own risk.

        Low carbon living is not just a local thing Bob. Even Texas has laws that push alternative energy development. They have more wind energy on line than any other state. Texas cities are building light rail systems. What makes sense just makes sense. 

        By the way, 1000 homes have burned up in Texas so far. And nearly every Texas city is rationing water. Governor Perry is asking the Feds for help. Can we spell i-r-o-n-y?

        • Bob Clark

          So, Texas is more green in carbon policies (by wind power metric) than Oregon.  And yet they suffer drought despite adopting the green way of life.  Also, folks are always saying current weather events do not make climatology, as it puts too much weight on current conditions.  Yet your response concerns current weather event.  And if Texas has been warming for many decades, the so called climate refugees do not look so desperate as to move in mass to Oregon. 

        • Bob Clark

          So, Texas is more green in carbon policies (by wind power metric) than Oregon.  And yet they suffer drought despite adopting the green way of life.  Also, folks are always saying current weather events do not make climatology, as it puts too much weight on current conditions.  Yet your response concerns current weather event.  And if Texas has been warming for many decades, the so called climate refugees do not look so desperate as to move in mass to Oregon. 

          • Anonymous

            Texas has no “green way of life” — despite their wind power, Texas produces more carbon dioxide than any other state:

            Their consumption of energy per capita is 5th in the US (same link).

          • valley person

            They have more total wind power. I’m not sure if this would hold per capita however.

            The drought is not affected one way or the other by how much carbon Texas does or doesn’t put up into the air, but may be a consequence of the total amount of carbon in the air. And since Texas is a major contributor, I suppose there is some poetic justice.

            Its true climate and weather are not the same thing. However, a long term drought is not weather. It is climate. Texas has been warming, but apparently not enough yet to cause an outflow of people.  However, if the sort of year they just had persists, it may not be long. They don’t have enough water for their current population, and their ag industry has lost billions already.

          • Bob Clark

            Texas draws a lot water from aquifers, and I remember hearing back in the 1970s in college how Texas was going to run dry of water;  but since this time they continue to draw on such water supplies. 

            There is science and then there is consensus.  Science is a concept requiring proof of idea or theory; Global warming which has morphed into climate change lacks such proof, and instead relies on consensus of scientists, some of whom receive government grants and make a good living from taking a position favorable to the popular theory of man made global warming.  Some scientists such as former state climatologist, George Taylor get fired, for taking a more cautious view of man made global warming.  I would hardly call man made global warming a hard science as the modelling has had to include certain hard wiring such as inclusion of water vapor inorder to forecast increasing global temperatures with carbon dioxide.

            Then there is the whole question of what percent of global warming is due to human industrial emissions and what percent is due to natural events and cycles.  Clearly, global warming has been going on since the last ice age several thousand years ago long before the industrial revolution.

            Global warming has several problems:  (1) One the models are suspect as are most complex modeling attempts. (2) An unexplained portion may be rather large in that it is reflective of natural warming outside of man’s control. (3)  Government solutions seem more onerous, such as taking over the freedom of individual decisions by such bodies as Metro, than simple adaption by free individual transactions and decision making.  (4)  The Free Rider problem:  Restricting the freedom of individuals locally and regionally inorder to limit global emissions isn’t doing any good when you don’t have genuine and similar effort in other regions of the globe.  Instead, local folks get played as chumps, never mind their good intentions.  (5)  Government solutions are often ill designed and actually even go against the stated objective.  For instance, Portland’s new ban on plastic bags more than likely will increase energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions rather than reducing them.  The substitutes actually use more net energy than the plastic bag, and the plastic bag is made from a byproduct of natural gas which will otherwise be flamed off into the atmosphere.  Yet another example is it has been found commuter train transport is actually more energy intensive overall than individual automobile transport.  (6) There was the little matter of climategate where key scientists involved in the Interplantary climate council were caught fudging charts and attempting to hide e-mails.

            Some want the government to intervene in the name of fighting global warming; But I and many others would like government not to impose itself on this issue and rather allow free markets to continue advancing energy efficiency in their natural course and keeping the Oregon spirit of caring for environment in our voluntary efforts (balancing the needs of material well being against respecting the environment).  It’s hard to get excited about the environment when the economy stinks.  The green jobs hype is just that hype.  Obama and the DOE, for example, just burnt a half billion dollars on a failed solar manufacturing plant, and other such subsidized green jobs just aren’t materializing.  In contrast, we know what has worked and these conventional methods should not be abandoned in favor of some speculative mission forced by government, whose representatives get paid regardless of outcomes.

            Thanks for the spirited debate.  

          • valley person

            I don’t know what the situation was in the 70s, but they have far more people now and far less water, so at some point those lines cross. They are in mandatory water conservation mode across most of Texas right now. People can’t even water their own lawns. So much for individual freedom. 

            Global warming is proven science, though in nearly every scientific endevour there always remain legitimate doubts about certain aspects. How fast and how much will the planet warm? There are reasonable doubts. How fast and how far will sea levels rise? That depends on a lot of variable, some of which are not yet known. How many people will have to move, and how soon? We don’t know yet.

            Your view of how scientists do their work is puzzling. You treat scientists as if they are retail marketers, going where the business is. Its true that as money is made available to study aspects of climate, scientists structure research proposals attractive to funders. But the funders, unless they are dishonest, don’t ask for answers in advance. That sort of science almost never passes peer review.   

            George Taylor was not a research scientist. He drew his own conclusions and misrepresented them as the view of the state. He wasn’t fired. He left voluntarily, said so himself.

            The hard science part of global warming is the physics. Certain greenhouse gasses have measurable radiative qualities, and the more of them in the atmosphere the more it traps heat. No amount of skepticism changes that.

            The government solutions proposed to date are pretty darn modest. Slightly raise the cost of burning fossil fules in order to encourage people, through the market,  to choose more efficient cars, appliacances, and insulation. Hardly anyone would notice the difference in driving a diesel mini van taht gets 50MPG, which is common in Europe, versus a 25MPG American model.

            Metro was formed long before there was any concern about global warming.

            The “free rider” problem is exactly what you who fail to allow society to adapt are guilty of. You want your personal freedom to pollute my air with climate changing carbon, forcing me to spend more money on air conditioning.

            Yes, government solutions cans be poorly designed. Better to let the market provide the solutions. I agree. Raise the price of carbon, and/or create a cap and trade system and the market will do that. It worked for SO2 and can work for CO2.

          • the real valley person

            On the feds “burning” that solar investment that went bad. To the extent workers drew salaries the last 2 years making useful products that are going to be collecting clean energy the next 20 or more years, that money was not burned. As an investment that won’t be paid back, I agree with you. Direct government investment in companies, however well intended, is not something I generally support. I’m in private business, have been most of my adult life, and know how shaky good ideas can be once put to the test of markets.

            I’d much rather see a tax on carbon, or a cap and trade system, plus lots of support for basic research, and then let the market sort out  the winners and losers. I should add that “free trade” is also at work here, in that it makes China manufacturing way cheaper than US or European manufacturing.

            I return the thanks.  

    • Anonymous

      Oh geez, recorded history in Texas is relatively short. You say this summer has been the warmest in the history of Texas. What you mean is in the recorded history…which is basically the blink of an eye. You climate liberals are so full of crap.

      • Anonymous

        Actually, El Paso has a weather station that is over 120 years old:

        and the mean annual temperature of south Texas has increased by over 1 C since 1975:
        (Figure 4a)

        • Anonymous

          Like I said, the blink of an eye. Geologically 120 years is nothing. And this summer Oregon has been much cooler than usual…of course you climate clowns want it both ways.  Heat is evidence of global warming but for some reason so is cooling. Libtard thinking is truly amazing.

          • Anonymous

            You’re right, 120 years is “a blink of an eye” in geologic time. And that’s exactly the problem — we’re changing climate far faster than it would naturally do so. Since 1979 the lower atmosphere has warmed at +0.13 deg C/decade, which is about 10 times faster than when the Earth leaves an Ice Age. That shows the magnitude of what we’re now causing.

            PS: Joel, like the commenter above, I’d also like to ask that you show a little respect to people and stop using language as if you’re still in 7th grade.

          • Anonymous

            Gather a couple of eons worth of data and get back to me. 120 years is worth zip.

          • Anonymous

            There are 800,000 years worth of data from ice cores, informing the conclusion based on what’s been seen for the last 120 years. Read a book about it — there are a couple. I recommend Paul Mayewski’s.

          • Anonymous

            Yeah, those ice corps in Texas are real killers. Remember…figures lie and liberals figure. You obviously are predisposed to believe in MMGW…I’m not.

          • Anonymous

            Clearly you don’t understand science–if you determine something from data taken in one place (like the climate’s response to carbon dioxide), the results apply everywhere, even in Texas.

            I’m not predisposed to believe in anything–I go with what the science shows. You, though, seem stuck with whatever you are “predisposed” to think, which is the very definition of un-scientific. 

          • Anonymous

            Oh, so I’m predisposed but you are following the science. Why do I think there are none so blind as those who will not see? I truly am blind but I see a lot better than you do David.

          • Ardbeg

             That a boy, keep throwing insults ( libtard , climate clown, etc)  Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. How about discussing the idea of climate change on the facts.  If your not willing to discuss issues based on fact, then please just read (like I do most of the time) and do not post.  Sites like the Catalyst are for people to give opposing views, not opposing insults.  By your picture you look to be a man of similar maturity (we are the same generation). Give opposing positions not opposing insults.  The issue of climate change boils down to this: has the human influence affected the closed environmental system we call our atmosphere?  Either you believe it has or you believe it hasn’t.  Either way, make your case and forgo the insults.  Throwing out insults just makes you sound uneducated and biased.  I have an opinion on just about everything.  But I’m also willing to change my view if the argument (and the proof) is convincing. You come off as someone who will never listen and as someone who regresses to name calling in lieu of meaningful dialog.  If that is you goal: good job!  If instead you wish to change someones current view or position on an issue then make your case.  You will never have any influence if all you do is call other people names. 

          • Anonymous

            You have to talk to people on a level that they understand. Read what the libtards have written and it’s clear facts are of little consequence to them.

          • Anonymous

            You might lso note that I write behind my real name and use a real photo…I don’t hide behind a pseudonym with no picture.

          • valley person

            Mega dittos. 

      • valley person

        Not just this summer. The past 10 months.

        Climate liberals?   No Joel. We are simply the reality community. Climate, like math, is not liberal or conservative. Its physics.

        • Anonymous

          Ten months! You’re still talking about such a short time it isn’t even relevant. And if you think you can’t be biased about the climate, you are foolish beyond imagination.

          • valley person

            You or I can be biased about what we think about climate. But we can’t be biased about the physics of the matter. Greenhouse gasses have a mathematical relationship to temperature. One either accepts that reality or one doesn’t. You don’t. I do. You may also think the world is flat, and you are entitled to your opinion. But reality is what it is.

          • Anonymous

            But you can certainly let your biases impact how you read the numbers. You believe in MMGW and therefore read the numbers in a way that suits you. I, on the other hand, think you are full of crap.

          • valley person

            I accept  what the numbers mean. Its not a matter of belief. Its a matter of fact.

            As always, you are entitled to your opinions, however vulgar they might be expressed.

          • Anonymous

            Ah yes, but you’re still full of crap…I can get more vulgar if you want…in fact, you’re stinking the place up.

          • the real valley person

            Grow up Joel. Its less embarrassing. 

          • Anonymous

            I’m not embarrassed, are you? You obviously have nothing better to do than take potshots at me. But then it’s better than showing how stupid you are.

  • Many years ago about the time we enjoyed Woodstock, Pete Seeger would sing a song about how the world’s population was doubling evey so many years.  He was on top of this issue then and the question becomes quite problematic as we seem to keep growing and consume or destroy our natural resources.  Only last week the news items was that years ago as it is going to be a tough place to live in the future.

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