Outdoor recreationalists bring attention to climate change

DENVER — Climate change is on the mind of attendees at the Outdoor Retailer 2019 Snow Show, who are noticing shorter winters of shallower snowfall affecting their recreation.

At “The Current State of Climate Change & How the Outdoor Industry Can Help” panel, that topic was discussed in depth. The event was moderated by Lindsay Bourgoine of Boulder-based nonprofit Protect Our Winters.

Lindsay Bourgoine, Jen Kay, Alex Ross, Max Hammer and Matt Segal discuss how climate change is affecting the outdoor recreation industry. BizWest/Jensen Werley

The state of the climate is that there is unequivocally climate change that is being caused by humans, said panelist Jen Kay, assistant professor of atmospheric and ocean studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“Is it warming? Yes, there is more CO2 and greenhouse gases in the air,” Kay said. “Is it us? That’s a question I get a lot. As scientists, there are a lot of tools to look at and understand climate and its changes. We know it’s us because we have fingerprints to know where the CO2 is coming from, and it’s coming from burning fossil fuels. Atmospheric oxygen concentrations are going down and that’s something we can measure. It’s easy to connect the increase in CO2 with the decrease in oxygen.”

Kay went on to add that climate change has various impacts, one of which is a depletion of drinking water.

“Snow is important for outdoor sports, but it’s also a natural reservoir and stores our water,” she said. “We’re losing that reservoir. As the climate warms, the first thing that happens is the ice melts. We lose snow, which means less water in streams. It wreaks havoc on human systems but also our natural systems.”

Bringing awareness to what climate change means for winter sports fans is part of Protect Our Winters’ mission.

“We want to turn passionate outdoor people into effective climate advocates,” Bourgoine said. “We want to give you the tools and resources you need. It can be overwhelming and the politics can be hard to address. But we think it’s important. And it’s impacting this $887 billion outdoor industry.”

Bourgoine said that Protect Our Waters targets four issues: carbon pricing (which it supports and sees as a solution), clean energy, electric transportation and supporting public lands.

She went on to add that there have been several rollbacks in protection by the federal government: the Arctic Refuge has been opened for drilling, the Clean Power Plan was rolled back as was fuel emissions standards and methane protections.

“We’re not in a good place right now,” she said. “But let’s talk about solutions: There’s a lot of incredible work at the state level. Gov. Polis recently came to our panel and shared his commitment to clean energy. His one executive order was to make sure there are more zero-emission vehicles, and he plans to get 1 million electric cars in Colorado. When policy happens, consumers can make better choices.”

In addition to state level wins, she added that there were electoral wins. The recent election had the highest voter turnout for a midterm since 1966. Millennial voter turnout increased from 18 percent in 2014 to 30 percent in 2018. What is more, there were once 180 climate deniers in Congress and now there are 150. There are also several bills in state legislatures introducing carbon pricing.

Outdoor recreationists are also meeting with legislators to advocate for climate change. Max Hammer, a professional skier from Reno, and Matt Segal, a professional climber — and co-founder of Boulder-based coffee company Alpine Start — met with their lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

“It felt empowering to go and have the opportunity to speak with my representatives,” Segal said. “I’m passionate about my business and climbing;  it’s more fun to talk about climbing. But to speak their language and talk business and how climate change affects my business and state business — I saw it in their eyes that they started to pay attention. I was talking their language. Unfortunately, money is their language, but I was able to get through.”

Small businesses themselves are also getting involved as advocates, and getting their community involved. Alex Ross, general manager of Rochester, New York-based Neon Wave ski and surf shop, has been hosting activations such as beach cleanups, movie nights and election information sessions to get the community involved.

“Climate change is very important to us, because it’s our community,” she said. “We’re all here because we slide on snow and climb rocks and surf, but we need to respect it and work as a community to keep it healthy. Whether you get outdoors a ton or very little, we all breathe this air.”

Educating the public on climate change can come in the form of events sponsored by small and large businesses or in day-to-day conversations.

“To me, by far the most important thing is to not just tell someone what to do or beat them down with negativity,” Hammer said. “I can be productive without telling someone what to do. I’m making conscious decisions that will show through and hopefully connect with people.”

 

DENVER — Climate change is on the mind of attendees at the Outdoor Retailer 2019 Snow Show, who are noticing shorter winters of shallower snowfall affecting their recreation.

At “The Current State of Climate Change & How the Outdoor Industry Can Help” panel, that topic was discussed in depth. The event was moderated by Lindsay Bourgoine of Boulder-based nonprofit Protect Our Winters.

Lindsay Bourgoine, Jen Kay, Alex Ross, Max Hammer and Matt Segal discuss how climate change is affecting the outdoor recreation industry. BizWest/Jensen Werley

The state of the climate is that there is unequivocally climate change that is being caused by humans, said panelist Jen Kay, assistant professor of atmospheric and ocean studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“Is it warming? Yes, there is more CO2 and greenhouse gases in the air,” Kay said. “Is it us? That’s a question I get a lot. As scientists, there are a lot of tools to look at and understand climate and its changes. We know it’s us because we have fingerprints to know where the CO2 is coming from, and it’s coming from burning fossil fuels. Atmospheric oxygen concentrations are going down and that’s something we can measure. It’s easy to connect the increase in CO2 with the decrease in oxygen.”

Kay went on to add that climate change has various impacts, one of which is a depletion of drinking water.

“Snow…