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The Truth About the Pacific NorthWest and Climate Change

I love the Pacific Northwest and Southern BC, but the reality for this area in a climate change driven world, is that population influx may be the most serious issue to contend with.

What if the American Southwest dries up, browns out, and those people now misting their patios in Arizona head to the still-green Pacific Northwest? What if Californians hit the road north in numbers far surpassing the 20,000 who now move to Oregon each year? What if the polar ice melts, oceans rise and millions living along coastal areas — or ravaged by Katrina-like storms — have to move?

What happens, Stickel later asks, “as we become more attractive and other places become less attractive?”

Look out, Oregon, for a global warming land rush – Oregon Environment News – Oregonlive.com.

This idea was raised during a panel I sat in on about a year ago with Vancouver Architect Richard Balfour, (Director, Metro Vancouver Planning Coalition) while discussing the Kootenays in British Columbia. Looking at a city like Nelson, with under 12,000 residents currently, and imagining this population ballooning to over 50-100,000 people as a result of climate change refugees and changing world political and economic priorities and climate – I don’t think it’s wrong to be looking at the issue with a broad mind.

James Howard Kunstler writes of the Pacific Northwest (quoted in the above article – from the Book, “The Long Emergency”)…

…Asian paramilitary pirates might raid the Pacific Northwest coasts as their home nations disintegrate. He notes other observers view the region optimistically, but doesn’t join them. “The Pacific Northwest’s benefits of mild climate, abundant water and good farmland may be overwhelmed by populations fleeing the problems of Southern California,” he writes.

These statements are not made by gloom and doom streetside prophets, rather by people with authority in the fields of Urban Planning and population demographics. Is this a reality you can foresee? Leave a comment on your thoughts.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.