Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oregon: Refuge from Global Warming?

The raging fires in Southern California and the extreme drought in southeastern U.S. (to say nothing of Katrina) got me thinking about how we in the cool, green, water-rich Northwest must look to folks in these ravaged parts of the country.

“Inviting” comes to mind.

Ten years ago I got involved in Metro 2040 planning, a small piece of which resulted in Hillsdale’s being designated a “Town Center,” a place that could accept higher population density. Back then the regional planners estimated that the three-county Metro area would increase by 1 million residents by 2040. It seemed an astonishing number. After all, we are at an estimated 1.5 million today.

I just checked the state figures on-line and the estimated population for 2040 remains virtually the same as a decade ago. The Metro region will gain 920,000 new residents by 2040.

The site has a brief description of methodology, which looks at three factors: birth rates, death rates and migration.

In light of fires, droughts, hurricanes and other global-warming related disasters, I was particularly interested in how demographers viewed migration.

Here is what the state site says:


Age/sex-specific in-and-out migration rates for Oregon and its Counties were determined for each of the five-year period from 1980 through 2000 (1980-85, 1985-90, 1990-95, and 1995-2000). Detailed in-and-out migration data from the 1990 and 2000 Censuses were modified and utilized to reflect the recent net migration trend.

The problem is that those time periods were very different from the present. In short, that was then; this is now. Tomorrow doesn’t promise to be any better, climate-wise.

Sorely missing is any mention of climate change and its burgeoning influence on life in the rest of the country and on the planet.

I also checked in with Metro, where John Coney, senior public affairs coordinator, flatly told me that climate change is not part of the agency’s calculations.

Until we include migration caused by global warming in our population projections, our calculations — and hence our planning — are virtually worthless.

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