A strange white bear was shot by an Idaho hunter on Baffin Island north of Canada during a guided hunt in 2006.

The animal was part polar bear and part grizzly.

Everyone thought it was a quirk of nature. That is, until another one was found a few years later.

It turns out grizzlies are moving north as their territory increases with the current warming trend while, at the same time, polar bears that rely on ice-covered oceans for hunting are in decline due to lost habitat.

These changing temperatures are either good or bad depending on which kind of bear you happen to be.

Global climate change is under way and will impact our world over the next 50 years or so. It already is happening.

Historically, ice ages and warming trends have come and gone dozens of times, moving oceans up and down, expanding and contracting ice sheets and changing rain, water, and living conditions.

A fascinating book by Laurence Smith, a professor of geography, earth and space sciences at UCLA, titled “The World in 2050,” explores how changes in the world’s climate may impact during our lifetimes.

He has worked hard to take the moderate forecasts rather than jumping into the extremes of the climate change debate. Rather, he is offering scenarios that are likely to happen over a relative short term based on the current best science.

Smith actually identifies four “global forces” that will impact the world over the next 30 years and beyond. The first is a growing population and changing demographics amongst the world’s people.

The second force is the increasing demands that human desires for a better life place upon natural resources and services. The third is globalization, refering to the increasing international trade and capital flows along with cultural and political changes.

The fourth is climate change that, of course, impacts and is impacted in turn by all of the other forces.

Insights on each “force” are worth exploring and understanding. But the one that has the most impact on our lives in Oregon may be water.

The force of expanding population growth, set to go from 6.9 billion in 1999  to 9.2 billion by 2050, will have a major impact on world water supplies even without considering climate change, Smith notes in his analysis.

Groundwater is already being depleted in places such as the lower Midwest.

The scientific models, however, forecast that even a small warming of the climate could have an even more serious impact.

 In a chapter titled, “California Browning, Shanghai Drowning (as the sea rises),” the author discusses how warming caused by volcanoes resulted in “altering important circulation patterns in the Pacific Ocean” in earlier times.

A current, similar change could shift cooler water masses off the Pacific coast, resulting, based on modeling, “ in pressure systems driving rain-bearing storm tacks north, rather than south, across the western United States ... and trigger drought conditions in the American Southwest.”

Smith acknowledges the modeling projections could prove incorrect and do not do a good job of accounting for valleys and mountains, but they do show “the brief American Dust Bowl could conceivable become the region’s new climate.”

On the other hand, the storms going further north means the regions from Portland to the north, are likely to get more rain with milder, wetter weather. In short, the models say our climate in Eastern Oregon may start being more like it has been the last couple of years over a longer term.

We could, in short, be winners in the climate change game when it comes to water.

Smith spends a lot of time discussing how northern areas around the world will likely see growth in population, more trade as shipping lanes open north of Russia and Canada for more periods of the year. The Upper Midwest will gain too.

The story, of course, gets much more complex. We encourage you to read Smith’s book no matter what you think about climate change.

As for our small part of the world, there could be more water in the Columbia, better dry land wheat harvests and more people moving to Seattle and Portland.

This means the current discussion of how to use Columbia River water could take on new life. The modeling suggest the Colorado River Basin is going to get much dryer — just what has happened the last couple of years.

The cities of Arizona, Nevada and California are going to be looking for water. It will likely come from agriculture.

It also seems logical the Columbia River may get some attention. There have been proposals along the lines of shipping water south in the past.

Oregon, even if more rain is heading our way, should be planning now to secure its claims to Columbia water for farming, fish and other uses.

Expanded irrigated farm land could become even more important in order to feed a growing, hungry and, in many cases, dryer world.

Smith’s look at the science shows clearly that huge populations living in what will be an expanding dry zone and near rising ocean waters will need both our water and our farm produce.

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