The outdoor recreation economy is at risk. As the planet continues to warm, the demand for services is likely to shift, leaving many businesses vulnerable, a new study says. Faced with this threat, outdoor industry leaders are creating a movement to influence policymakers to safeguard our future.
With the ski season becoming shorter and shorter - nationwide by 41% in the last three decades alone - the impact of climate crisis on the snow sports industry has been apparent for a while. Founded in 2007, Protect Our Winters (POW) is an initiative that has rapidly grown from a grassroots movement into a political force to be reckoned with. It leverages the influence of professional athletes to turn all outdoor enthusiasts, of whom 50 million are of voting age, into climate action activists.
Change is now needed more than ever as it’s not only ski-resorts that suffer as a result of rising temperatures. A recent study from Utah State University predicts that the demand for outdoor recreation is also about to drop during the summer, affecting all sector players, including the hospitality industry, guides, family-run grocery stores in getaway towns, and more. From wildfires to floods, extreme weather is already known to create multi-million dollar losses. Beyond the increased risk of natural disasters, tourists are also going to be repelled by the heat, with many summer destinations becoming off-limits in the hottest months.
Facing these multiplying challenges, the outdoor industry is rapidly becoming a leader in climate change action. Last June, more than 100 outdoor brands made a pledge to work together and become the world’s first climate-positive industry within the next eight years. From reducing greenhouse gasses to advocating for systemic change, the initiative, known as the Climate Action Corps, is already gaining traction. Crucially, more and more climate skeptics realize that, contrary to a long-standing belief, sustainability is actually good for their bottom lines.
Beyond the havoc that global warming is likely to cause for the outdoor and tourism sectors, there is much more at stake. A report presented at the UN’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt warns of bleak prospects and an irreversible “tipping point” which could soon see the planet plunged into climate chaos.
While naysayers continue to call it scaremongering, driving home the scale of the problem is crucial because there is still time to act. From industry-wide initiatives to individual action, we can salvage the beauty of our planet.