08/30/2019

Retooling The Tourism Industry Under A Changing Climate

35:03 minutes

a photo of lake tahoe and the snowy mountains that surround it on a bright clear day
Lake Tahoe. Credit: Ezra David Romero/Capital Public Radio

a stylized version of the earth with cloudsThis story is part of Degrees Of Change, a series that explores the problem of climate change and how we as a planet are adapting to it. Tell us how you or your community are responding to climate change here.


Each year, outdoor enthusiasts in the country spend nearly $900 billion dollars on hiking, fishing and other types of outdoor recreation. The different types of business that take part in that tourism economy span a wide range—from big all inclusive ski resorts to mom and pop shops that sell tours of their local hiking spots. 

But with shrinking snowpacks, more extreme weather, and the unpredictable changes from season to season, these businesses must wrestle with a challenge: climate change. Winter tourism operations are adding on summer water sports to stay afloat, while the number of ski resorts have dwindled almost in half since the 1950s. How will these local businesses adapt?

In Capital Public Radio’s podcast TahoeLand, reporter Ezra David Romero investigates how the community of Lake Tahoe in California, which sees 30 million tourists each year, is responding to these changes. Romero talks with Ira about how a pair of residents are trying to establish the area as the “Outdoor Capital of the World” in order to expand outdoor activities that can take place between the big winter and summer tourism seasons. He discusses how local businesses, from casinos to sleigh ride operators, are re-envisioning how they will operate in the future. 

Daniel Scott, who studies the effects of climate change on tourism, joins the conversation to discuss how the ski resorts are implementing different attractions that can be used year round. And Mario Molina from Protect Our Winters talks about how his organizations trains professional athletes and businesses that depend on the outdoors to become advocates for sustainable practices and policies. 

Do you work in the tourism or recreation industry? Have you had to adapt your business in response to climate change? Share your story in the comments below. 

Sara Schrichte from Soda Springs, California dropped us a voice memo at degreesofchange@sciencefriday.com.

Transcript: Donner Summit is home to five winter resorts. All of them are investing in snowmaking so they can stay open and stay competitive during dry spells each year. When our local waste water plant was upgraded a few years ago, they started selling treated waste water for snowmaking, which is great. But still, it’s striking to see how much investment is being made to support the ski industry in the face of climate change.

Jennifer M. from Alaska sent us an email at degreesofchange@sciencefriday.com.

I work at a remote lodge in the Alaskan Wilderness and have been working here every summer for the past five years (in the off season I live in New Haven, CT). I realized the necessity to be responsible stewards of the land and performed a “food systems sustainability analysis” of where food comes from and from what sources, how much and what kind of trash we have. It isn’t something we advertise as a business but we do now source “Alaska grown” primarily, and we weigh, typify and compost all of our food waste.

Listen to all the episodes of TahoeLand on Capital Public Radio.

Something You Can Do!

a line of cars on a road stuck in traffic
Credit: Shutterstock

Before you pack your bags and head out on your vacation, you can tally up your emissions for the trip. Use a carbon footprint calculator to find out the approximate amount of CO2 that you may use throughout your getaway. Then, you can explore carbon offsetting projects—alternative ways to compensate for your emissions and save CO2 elsewhere—to make sure your trip out to the great outdoors stays green. 


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Segment Guests

Ezra David Romero

Ezra David Romero is Capital Public Radio’s environment reporter, and host of the station’s Yosemiteland podcast. He’s based in Sacramento, California.

Daniel Scott

Daniel Scott is the executive director of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change and is a professor of geography and environmental management at the University of Waterloo. He is based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Mario Molina

Mario Molina is the executive director of Protect Our Winters in Boulder, Colorado.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: This is Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow. The Labor Day weekend is the unofficial mark of the end of summer. Beach time and camping activities will be swapped out for fall foliage hikes and those glistening snow-skiing mountains. These businesses depend on a reliable stream of tourist dollars.

So how will climate change change all that? How will smaller snow packs and more extreme weather affect these communities? And how will they adapt?

What do you do if you run a ski slope and you don’t have any snow? It has happened. That is the question that reporter Ezra David Romero wanted to understand.

In his podcast called Tahoe Land, he investigates how all of this is happening in the Lake Tahoe area, and he joins us now. Ezra David Romero, he joins us from Capital Public Radio. Welcome to Science Friday.

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Thanks for having me, Ira.

IRA FLATOW: And we can all listen to the Tahoe Land podcast at capradio.org/tahoeland. For those of us who aren’t familiar with Lake Tahoe, give us a little idea of the area. Why do tourists visit the area now?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, so Lake Tahoe is at about 6,200 feet in the Sierra Nevada. It’s this huge lake that has 72 miles of shoreline. And it’s surrounded by pine trees and has about 20 communities.

You know, people go there in the winter because it’s a winter wonderland, you know? There’s snow. There’s all these ski resorts. There’s all these places to sled and have a good time.

But then in the summer and fall and even now part of the winter, there’s so many sunny days where you can get out into the water. It’s crystal clear blue color, which it’s known for. And then there’s all kinds of hikes and rock climbing. And everything you can imagine to do outside, you can do there.

IRA FLATOW: So they’re basically really seeing a change in the habitat of Lake Tahoe.

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, there is this idea that winters are getting shorter and summers are getting longer in places like Lake Tahoe as an effect of global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s like, it’s happening to Lake Tahoe. And in our podcast Tahoe Land, we unpack this.

We talk about everything from there’s this challenge that climate change is– it’s challenging the fight to keep Lake Tahoe blue. And you know, Tahoe is known for being one of the clearest lakes in the entire world. And it’s also challenging invasive species.

It’s causing them to flourish. And then it’s also like, the snow pack is retreating. And it’s also this variability in weather. There’s so many more warm storms. And that affects snow and tourism and bears and on and on and on and on.

IRA FLATOW: So I guess this is affecting– we’re altering people’s habits of visiting, right?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, people are– you know, when I grew up, I grew up near going to Reno. my grandparents lived there. And it would be this winter place.

People would go there to ski and to snowboard. And that’s what I had in my mind of it. But now it’s this place that people go all year round to do all kinds of things.

And it was back then, but it’s becoming that even more. You know, people are experiencing Tahoe in a new way. And they’re not going there for the casinos around the lake necessarily all the time. They’re going there to get outdoors and experience Tahoe in a different way that’s not necessarily having to do with snow.

IRA FLATOW: In fact, in your podcast, you talked to a group looking to re-envision Tahoe, right?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, there’s these two guys, Chris McNamara and Corey Rich. You know, they’re sort of these Bay Area bandits, right? They used to live in the Bay Area, and now they live in Tahoe.

They’ve been there about 10 years or so. And what they want to do is they want this area to become the outdoor capital of the world. And I think they’ve actually already bought that branding. So let’s hear from one of them, Chris.

CHRIS NCNAMARA: The idea seems simple, which is, this should just be the outdoor capital of the world. This should be an economy based around all the sustainable recreation that’s possible to do here so that when there is a bad snow year or when the economy tanks, the community doesn’t get hammered like it has over the last couple of decades when those things happen.

IRA FLATOW: Hm. So how are they trying to transform the area there?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: So the idea is this. There’s about between 19 and 29 million people that visit Tahoe every year. That’s way more than Disneyland.

And so their idea is they want to boost the economy and bring in funds and energy to capitalize on all the sunny days that are in Tahoe. So basically, they want to bring in companies, bring in businesses that will sort of transition the economy from being this place that’s all banked on tourism to things that are, like, banked on tech or other kinds of businesses in the region. And so for example, one of them has a global photography and video company, right?

And so they want to have people base there with access close to big cities like San Francisco, Sacramento, and Reno with airports and good transportation. And there’s even a space called Co-Work Tahoe there that’s already doing this on a micro level where they’re trying to bring in big tech companies or tech-related places there so you can do your tech during the day. You can buy a house in South Lake Tahoe or somewhere. And then you can hit the slopes or go on the lake and getting your kayak, and you can have the best of both worlds.

IRA FLATOW: So they want to make you live there more instead of visit more.

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, most people go there to visit for a day or a couple hours or they’re passing through. But they want people to call Tahoe home.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah. Well, one of the other big draws to Tahoe is the casino or all the casinos there. You think of the smoky blackjack tables, not of the outdoors. So you’re inside. You’re not outside. How is a casino affected by climate change?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, so the idea is going back to this idea of summers getting longer, you know? And then it comes back down to this idea, like, first, there’s Indian gaming that kind of put the casinos at threat in Lake Tahoe. But then now with climate change and more visitors and people coming here to be outdoors, the casinos that I spoke with said they’re having to reinvent how they operate. They’re having to reinvention how they market, and they’re actually having to work together instead of being sort of this lone star, like, wild west mentality.

Because at one point, Lake Tahoe was one of a handful of places in the US that had gambling, legal gambling. And so with that changing. They’re having to adapt. And that’s sort of what I’ve noticed in all my reporting– that Tahoe is in a state of adaptation.

And I talked to someone about these casinos. Her name’s Stacey Noyes. She’s the president of the Lakeside Inn and Casino.

And she said they’re doing something interesting. They are having to work together. So let’s hear her.

STACEY NOYES: The most significant, noticeable portion of what we’ve adapted to is we’re working together. It used to be fierce competition, and we shared no information. And we certainly wouldn’t share employees Our size, I think, lets us be pretty nimble as a community to change directions or take risks to accomplish change.

IRA FLATOW: Hm, that’s quite interesting. I want to bring on another guest that you, Ezra, talked to in the Tahoe Land podcast to talk about how one of the biggest businesses in the area will have to adapt. And of course, I’m talking about ski resorts and snow resorts, snow sports. Daniel Scott is the executive director of the Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change and professor of geography and environmental management at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Welcome to Science Friday.

DANIEL SCOTT: Good afternoon, Ira. Thanks for having me.

IRA FLATOW: You’re welcome. Now there are many factors that can go into the tourism economy. It’s not just the tourists. What about– what are the other components of the tourism industry that will be affected by climate change?

DANIEL SCOTT: Well, it’s the whole entire sector– everything from transporting people. People have– to be engaged in tourism, they have to go places. So the transportation section or segment of the industry– right now, we’ve got great ability.

And California’s a leader in that space in terms of decarbonizing ground-based transport, your automobile fleet, et cetera. You can have that run on an electric grid. That can be decarbonization.

And buses– cities are experimenting with their bus fleets. The tourism industry is doing the same. The one challenge they have there is is from aviation, we still don’t have a way to either electrify well or come up with alternative fuels.

So that’s still a segment that’s struggling a little bit with how to become part of that decarbonized tourism economy of the future. Then you get into the actual attractions– anything from ski resorts, losing your beach, glaciers changing, the Great Barrier Reef being bleached heavily. So the attractions that bring people to places– and then as you mentioned, you’ve got a storm heading for Florida.

You get big storms in the Caribbean, cat fours and fives. They can decimate their infrastructure, and it takes years to rebuild in some cases. So it’s the entire supply chain right through to the entire experience for tourists.

IRA FLATOW: Mm-hm. Now of course, skiing and boarding depend on snow. Can you give us an idea of just how the snowfall has been changing and is predicted to change in Tahoe?

DANIEL SCOTT: Yeah, I mean, that’s been a question I’ve been asked a lot about not just Tahoe but across the United States. And for the longest time, the answer I was giving to the media and others was– I often got perplexed looks. They knew it was warming, and I said, well, but ski seasons were actually getting longer from the ’80s to the ’90s and then the ’90s to the 2000s. Even though average temperatures were warming, our ski season throughout the United States were getting longer.

It’s because of the massive investment in snowmaking. So that’s one of those adaptations that you’ve been talking about. The interesting thing is, as I talked to Ezra about, we’ve finally seen this decade, that’s tipped down the other way. So for the first time in the last 30 to 40 years, ski seasons are actually getting, on average, shorter across the United States even with the massive snow making we’ve got. So we may have seen a peak skiing era where snowmaking can no longer keep up with the amount of warming that we’re

IRA FLATOW: Oh. Ezra, you’ve tackled that in your reporting. What have you seen?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, I was going to say. So California, Nevada is known for variables in weather, right? We’re known for having wet years and dry years, big snow packs and little snow packs, droughts and wet times.

But all the climate scientists I talked with– even Daniel has talked about how that variability is getting worse. There’s going to be wetter wetter years and drier drier years. We’ve seen that in the past decade with five years of drought and then two of the largest snow packs we’ve ever had in California.

And that does a number of things to these ski resorts. Like, they can’t open because there’s too much snow or there’s too little snow. And then there’s the Desert Research Institute in Reno.

I talked to some of their scientists, and they say that the snow pack is moving actually upslope at about as many as 200 feet a year. And so that has a direct effect on businesses that rely on that snow pack. And then all of that– and the third thing that they’re seeing is more rain instead of snow.

So it’s kind of like a gamble or stacking a deck of cards. You’re just putting a bunch more storms into the deck. And so there’s more variability, and it’s more of a gamble in the end. And so all that has a direct effect on Tahoe’s tourism industry that just focuses on snow.

IRA FLATOW: Mm-hm. Daniel, if there’s too little snow, if it’s warmer, why can’t you– because it’s not snowing. Why can’t you just make more snow like they do in ski areas?

DANIEL SCOTT: Yeah, I mean, that is one of the principle adaptations increasingly around the world, even in Europe and other parts of the world– here in Canada, for sure. It’s been part or a central part of the industry for 25 to even 30 years in some parts like New England. So that’s something they have done.

What we’re seeing now, though, is at certain times of year, particularly early in the winter– so that crucial Christmas and New Year holiday where for some resorts, that’s 25% of their revenue– the temperatures are still too warm. So January, February, they’re pretty reliable in many years. But it’s that early season when the temperatures are actually just too warm to actually make the snow not just economically, but they physically just can’t make it anymore.

IRA FLATOW: Mm-hm.

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: And Daniel, you’re talking about the nighttime lows, right?

DANIEL SCOTT: Yeah that’s typically when a ski area will make the snow. You get your temperature minimums at night. And often, electricity rates are lower at that time, too.

So that’s when they try to make most of their snow. But as they creep closer and closer to Christmas, we have this what we call sort of an emergency snowmaking period where they want to get open to get ready for that holiday. So they’ll spend the extra money. They’ll do it during the day if the temperatures are there. And unfortunately, many times, that’s not even the case.

IRA FLATOW: We’re talking about our degrees of change series– that’s tourism and climate change– on Science Friday from WNYC Studios. I want to read– we had a listener write us from Michigan, who is also seeing these types of changes. Edward Bobenchak says, we live near Roscommon Michigan, in the middle of the lower peninsula of Michigan.

Our area is dependent on winter vacationing for ORVs, snowmobiling, skiing, and ice fishing. Many businesses in our area have seen a marked decrease in winter business over the past few years. A number of longtime businesses have even closed. Ezra, have you seen that in your reporting?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah. I mean, for example, like, the ski resorts will close when there’s too much snow or too little snow, right? And these place– if you drive around the lake, you’ll see how dependent this place is on snow. There’s businesses of all sorts that open and close their doors as the snow fluctuates.

IRA FLATOW: Hm. And more and more these people are going to be taking it on the chin as this– the way the wind blows and the way the snow blows. Are the ski areas, Daniel– are they adding different attractions to make up for the loss?

DANIEL SCOTT: Yeah, that’s one of their other sort of principal adaptation strategies, and you’ve alluded to it a little bit. Tahoe is well down that pathway. And a good example in Canada is Whistler, which is known as a world class ski resort.

But I think two years ago, what they call their green season, which is their spring, fall, summer, their green season visitation actually surpassed their winter visitation. And they’ve been putting a lot of money into different types of attractions– anything from conference centers to spas, the usual types of things in town, but also getting people up into the mountains in different ways.

So they’ve invested a lot to continue to use their lift capacity to take mountain bikers up. And they now rent mountain bikes and the protective equipment and all of that the same way you would for skis. And they have a bigger plan. I think it’s a billion investment, I can’t remember over how many years, but again to diversify that type of their tourism to make it full season instead of just a ski resort.

IRA FLATOW: Have you been seeing this in Tahoe, Ezra? The same thing–

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, and so in Tahoe, they’re doing some of that. For example, Heavenly, it’s a ski resort by Vail. They have a big, like bike track they have in the summertime.

And they also have, like, you can do, like, ropes course and things like that. So they’re trying to make the mountain for all seasons, essentially. And that’s happening all over the place in Tahoe.

But it’s also– all that comes down to funds and dollars. You know, these big companies that have 12, 18 resorts around the country and the world, they have the dollars to invest, to buy green energy, and, like, to buy a wind farm to fuel all their stuff, to have the snow machines to shoot the– to make the snow, to do all these kind of things. But the other places that I’ve talked to you, like the small resorts, say they’ve got to feel the pain a lot more before they can actually make these investments, or maybe they’ll just close shop altogether because they don’t have the dollars in their bank accounts to actually do these changes.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah, it’s much easier for the big guys to survive than the little guys we’re going to have to take a break. And when we come back, we will talk more with Ezra David Romero host of Tahoe Land. He’s environment reporter at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento. And also Daniel Scott, executive director, Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change– he is professor of geography and environmental management, University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.

We’ll take a break, and we’ll talk. This is just part of our Degrees of Change series where we’re talking about how we had to adapt now, you know? Change is happening to the climate where some people are calling it now not climate change but climate crisis.

Maybe that is a better phrase than just climate change. So stay with us. We’ll be back with our Degrees of Change series focusing this week on tourism and climate change. Stay with us. We’ll be right back after the break.

You’re listening to Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow. We’re talking this hour about how climate change affects tourism and the recreation industry, talking with Ezra David Romero, host of Tahoe Land, and Daniel Scott, executive director of Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change. And he’s also a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Let’s continue where we left off. Ezra, building more trails and roads is more than just a business can do. How do the communities like Lake Tahoe support these changes?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, well, I want to touch on something about how these projections are supposed to be really huge in Tahoe. There’s this draft climate change vulnerability assessment for the region that’s coming out soon. And in that, they’re talking about how the Tahoe area ski areas are projected to lose $300 million in revenues annually.

That’s in like the most extreme climate scenario. And then the medium one, it’s like $140 million a year. And so that’s affecting the ski resorts.

And with that big of a dent, it’s supposed to affect everything. And that’s why the city of South Lake Tahoe and other places around the lake are doing everything from bringing in electric scooters, you know, to get people out of their cars and onto trails. And then there’s also this commitment to renewable energy by 2032 in some of these communities.

And then there’s also this grassroots movement to get people in positions of power on platforms of climate change in the Tahoe region. And that’s because they don’t always feel like their national representation believes in climate change. And so they want to do things on what they can on their own. And so, for example, it’s happening on city council and school boards and public utilities.

And then the Forest Service is amending how they deal with opening and closing trails and restrooms because longer Summers interrupt when they usually close these places. And so they find all this trash and all this stuff on these trails. And climate change is forcing them to change their own rules.

IRA FLATOW: Mm-hm. Are there other businesses that rely on the snow pack beside the ski industry?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, everything from people who clean roads to tourists to hotels to restaurants. I mean, the whole economy there is based on snow when it’s snowing. Or when there’s not even snow, it’s still based on that.

And so every sector of society in Tahoe is looking at snow because it’s their livelihood. And it’s one thing that they can’t change. You know, it’s a symptom of greenhouse gas emissions globally. And so they’re living with these effects. They have to adapt, or they are not going to make it is what I hear in my reporting.

IRA FLATOW: And some people just can’t meet ends anymore, right, in the employment and staffing

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Exactly. We met this– I met this guy named Borges Sleigh Ride Company in South Lake Tahoe. And he was tell me that in 2018, he didn’t have one Sleigh ride because it didn’t snow enough.

There wasn’t enough snow at lake level for them to operate. And you know, his thought was, like, they were going to have to close down and not do it. But they’re adapting, and now he does carriage rides.

IRA FLATOW: Oh.

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: You know, and so, like, there’s points of adaptation. But it gets to a certain place where you cannot operate in places like this.

IRA FLATOW: Well, Daniel, are the businesses you talk to thinking about this and how to adapt to sustainability? Or are they just trying to hold on?

DANIEL SCOTT: A bit of both. All businesses have to focus on the next quarter, their next year. So they do have that short term planning, you know, and they have to from a business perspective. The communities– but some of the bigger– as Ezra mentioned, some of the bigger corporate ski areas, they can have a bit of that longer view.

And they can look at their different properties and say, well, which ones do we want to divest from and where do we want to invest to make our business the most climate resilient? And they have to, and they’re seeing that sort of writing on the wall from the financial markets.

They’re actually requiring them to disclose their climate risk increasingly on different stock markets around the world. So publicly traded companies will have to take that sort of longer view and have that consideration. The vulnerability– and both of you you’ve talked about this a little bit is the smaller mom and pop type businesses, whether you’re in snowmobiling, sleigh rides, or a smaller ski area, one or two or three bad years in succession, and your capital reserves are gone.

You can’t get insurance. You’re out of business. And the bigger players, they can afford those couple bad years and then take advantage of the good years.

IRA FLATOW: Mm-hm. We had a listener write in with a question, Sarah Schrikthi who says, on Donner Summit in California, our wastewater treatment plant was upgraded to meet stringent state wastewater discharge mandates. The Donner Summit Public Utility District includes five winter resorts, every one of which is investing in snowmaking in order to make up for drought years and late winter starts.

The district is now providing treated effluent for snowmaking, but a lot of energy is going into extending this California industry in the face of climate. They can’t seem to support it. Any comments for either of you on it?

DANIEL SCOTT: I’m happy to give you a big picture on this.

IRA FLATOW: Sure.

DANIEL SCOTT: I’ve had lots of people raise questions about the sustainability of snowmaking. And in my response, there’s a couple pieces. Using gray water is even better as they are in this case.

But 80% to 90% of the water that you put up on a hill or a slope for the winter comes back into the same watershed in spring. So you’re borrowing usually at a time a year when farmers don’t need it and other people. So that’s great.

Snowmaking itself is done by electricity. So if you have green grid– in Quebec, our province of Quebec, it’s all hydro. So it’s essentially net zero carbon already.

But other states can be doing the same as they green their grid. And the third point is some people have called snowmaking maladaptation because you have to use additional energy to create that snow. And that’s true.

But again, it can be green energy. The other thing is, if you don’t make that snow and those people who are in the region or locally go to ski elsewhere– so they fly to the Rockies, or they say, you know what? I’m not going to ski this year. I’m going to go on a flight to Hawaii. Every time you don’t keep those tourists locally and regionally, the carbon footprint goes through the roof. So the more we can do to keep tourists locally, the better things in terms of a carbon footprint will be.

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: And I think your question goes to our larger point. It goes to, like, the snow pack is like this hidden– this frozen reservoir, right, in California. And with it going away, it’s going to bring some huge water issues in California that depend on that snow pack. Lake Tahoe can only hold so much water. And so places that rely on it are going to have to adapt and figure out what to do.

IRA FLATOW: I want to bring on another guest who works to get professional winter sport athletes and businesses to address climate change issues. Mario Molina is the executive director of Protect Our Winters in Boulder, Colorado. Welcome to Science Friday.

MARIO MOLINA: Thank you so much for having me on. Really appreciate it.

IRA FLATOW: Now you work with professional skiers and snowboarders and businesses like Patagonia that depend on the outdoors. What are their attitudes towards climate change?

MARIO MOLINA: Well, our athletes, they’re, in a way, the front lines of the experience of climate change and the impact. They are being affected in their expeditions year after year and seeing the recession of glaciers in the Himalayas, the recession of glaciers throughout Europe and as well– you know, Carolyn Gleich is one of our ambassadors. She just summited Everest this season.

And she had a much shorter window for the summit, for a summit attempt, than in previous years because of the fluctuation of the jet stream. So they’re starting to see the impact. They have been seeing the impacts of climate change firsthand in the landscapes that they spend most of their lives in. And for your industry partners in Patagonia, Burton, Terra Mountain Company, they’re very aware that the long term sustainability of the business model depends not only on winter but really on climate stability over the next few decades.

IRA FLATOW: Ezra, you talked to Maddie Bowman, who won the first gold medal in half pipe skiing. What were her thoughts on how climate change is affecting her sport?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, so Maddie Bowman lives in South Lake Tahoe, and she’s part of Protect Our Winters too. She’s a spokesperson for them. And in 2014, she won, and that was the first year half pipe skiing ever happened.

And she feels like not too long later, her sport is going to disappear. She says– we have this great scene in the podcasts of her winning the Olympics and then her saying, like, her family is dependent on snow, her whole livelihood. She’s chasing snow around the world just to practice. And so she feels like even though her sport is new, it’s going to go away or there’s great potential that it could.

IRA FLATOW: I have an email from someone, from Jennifer in Alaska, who sort of points out both sides of a coin. She says she lives in a remote– she works at a remote lodge in the Alaska wilderness. And while overall in this park, we have seen a trend of more visitors, the Park Service is hoping to increase tourism by creating more infrastructure– the dichotomy between the need of preservation and the want of tourism. I hope tourism decreases.

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: I’ve heard that in Tokyo as well. Some people I’ve spoke with said, you know, like, we already have 29 million people. We don’t need more. Like, I spoke with a woman who’s been there for 64 years, you know, since she was a little girl. And she’s like, you know, I can’t go anywhere without feeling like I’m in a city, but it’s at 6,300 feet in the middle of the Sierra Nevada,

IRA FLATOW: Daniel, how do you feel about that?

DANIEL SCOTT: Well, we’ve seen that that sort of dichotomy or that complaint about over-tourism is a term that you’ll hear a lot in Barcelona, Venice. You know, the list goes on and on. And so a lot of communities that do have what they see as too many tourists are struggling with how best to take advantage of work sustainably with the visitor economy but at the same time keep their local culture and don’t make, as Ezra just said, the locals feel like they’re strangers in their own town.

IRA FLATOW: Mario, how do you talk to companies that might be more concerned with their bottom line and climate change might not play into their business model?

MARIO MOLINA: So it’s important for companies to realize that climate change is going to impact every single aspect of any business model, regardless of industry, in the relatively near term. And so whether it’s supply chain, whether it’s material sourcing, whether it’s water, water availability, or whether it’s snow pack and the predictability of the seasons that the companies depend on, it’s going to impact the bottom line in one way or another. So for us, what we find is that education onto what are the business impacts is incredibly important.

But the reality is that a lot of companies are realizing that it impacts the bottom line because customers are demanding it. And so our founder Jeremy Jones, I think, has put it best when he said the hero in the outdoor industry is no longer the one that drops the sickest line or hops the biggest cliff. It’s the one that’s able to do that and at the same time stands for something and stands for a set of values that the community endorses. And the outdoor sports community is definitely awakening to the importance of making climate change a priority and expects that same type of leadership and modeling from the businesses that it supports.

IRA FLATOW: I’m Ira Flatow. This is Science Friday from WNYC Studios talking about climate change. Something I have noticed and I just want to ask you, and I’ll ask this of Daniel Scott. You seem to be seeing a split in age groups here about their views on the environment. I don’t know very many young people who are not, you know, way fully behind doing something. Did you find that too?

DANIEL SCOTT: Yeah. I mean, I’ve been teaching climate change at the university level for almost 20 years now. And absolutely, the kids that are coming out of high school and into the university programs, they realize they’re going to face the brunt of most of these changes.

We’re seeing the front end of a wave here in terms– and already, obviously, it gets people’s attention. It gets business and government leaders’ attention. But we’re only at the start of this.

So they’re the ones that throughout their career and into their lifetime, they’re both going to face the brunt of these changes. But also, they’re going to have to be the professionals that deal with all the different impacts. They’re going to have to come up with the adaptation solutions.

And they’re going to have to transition into a decarbonized economy all within the span of sort of one generation. Or, you know the genie is out of the bottle and the game is essentially lost. So they’re facing this huge transition to make it happen. So they’re, I think, much more aware of it than maybe some other generations.

IRA FLATOW: Ezra, do you agree with that in your reporting?

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, I’d say so. So later on in the podcast, we’re going to talk– in our last episode, it’s going to sort of be about the politics of climate change.

And we have this group of students that are very politically active. They’re all high schoolers. They’re at Truckee High School.

And they’re a ski group. And they realize that their livelihood, their family’s livelihood, their reality is going to change in Tahoe. And so they’re trying to get their elected leaders to act accordingly and different around the topic of climate change. And you know, I’m in my 30s, and I would say we– as a young person myself, we feel that same way. Like, climate change is happening, and we’re doing podcasts or doing things like this to get the message out.

IRA FLATOW: Do you believe that your future– you and younger people believe that this– you know, you’re really playing with my future years here.

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: In some sense, yes. I mean, a lot of these things are projections, right? Like, we have these– we have these scenarios. And if the world gets its act under control in many ways, maybe our future will be different.

But I’m a Californian also. You know, I grew up in the Central Valley where there’s bad air quality, where there’s wildfires, where there’s threats of earthquakes. There’s all these things.

And so we live in a state and a place that’s constantly affected by the climate and the environment. And so I don’t know. If I’m going to remove my reporter hat and just be a Californian, as a person, I’d say my future might look dire if you want to stay in a place like California, where everything is dependent on the climate– everything from crops to your parents’ income to the snow to where you live.

IRA FLATOW: Well, you might say that about Florida too considering the kinds of weather lashing it takes every hurricane season now.

EZRA DAVID ROMERO: Yeah, all these places are experiencing one end of the extreme or the other. If you’re in Florida, you’re dealing with hurricanes. In California, dependent where you’re at, your house might be affected by sea level rise in San Diego or along the coast or where it might be a wildfire in Santa Barbara or in Redding.

IRA FLATOW: All right. We’ve run out of time. I would like to thank my guests who sat out this hour with me very nicely.

Mario Molina is executive director of Protect Our Winters in Boulder, Colorado– Daniel Scott, executive director of the Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change and a professor geography and environmental management at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Ezra David Romero is the host of Tahoe Land podcast and an environmental reporter for Capital Public Radio in Sacramento. And you can listen to all episodes of Tahoe Land podcast at capradio.org/tahoeland. Thank you all for taking time to be with us today.

DANIEL SCOTT: Thank you. Have a great weekend.

IRA FLATOW: You too. Quick program note– next week on the show, we’re talking about ways of knowing that may not initially look like what we call science. But first, we want to know.

What does the word science mean to you, anyhow? Tell us what you think on Science Friday Vox Pop app, a way for you to share your comments with us. And we might play them on the show.

Download the Science Friday Vox Pop app wherever you get your apps and tell us how do you define science. We bid a sad farewell, a fond farewell, to producer Annie Minoff who, for the last six years, has enlivened us with her sense of humor and professionalism. She will be missed.

We had technical engineering help today from Julie Ferdino. And many thanks to George Lombardi and all the nice folks at WSHU for hosting us this week. And of course, we’re active all week on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And you can ask a smart sneaker to play Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Copyright © 2019 Science Friday Initiative. All rights reserved. Science Friday transcripts are produced on a tight deadline by 3Play Media. Fidelity to the original aired/published audio or video file might vary, and text might be updated or amended in the future. For the authoritative record of Science Friday’s programming, please visit the original aired/published recording. For terms of use and more information, visit our policies pages at http://www.sciencefriday.com/about/policies/

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About Alexa Lim

Alexa Lim is a producer for Science Friday. Her favorite stories involve space, sound, and strange animal discoveries.

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Lauren J. Young is Science Friday’s digital producer. When she’s not shelving books as a library assistant, she’s adding to her impressive Pez dispenser collection.

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Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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