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ON THIN ICE: New modelling shows Australian ski industry will change dramatically by 2050 if current climate trajectory continues

PROTECT OUR WINTERS AUSTRALIA, ANU 5 mins read

EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:05AM 5 June 2024

 

NEW MODELLING and a report from Protect Our Winters Australia (POW) and The Australian National University (ANU) shows that if the current level of climate pollution continues, all Australian ski resorts will face increasing challenges and some resorts are at risk of closing due to a continued reduction in snowfall. 

 

Our Changing Snowscapes: Climate Change Impacts and Recommendations for the Australian Alps, synthesises a range of research into climate impacts on the Australian Alps region with new modelling. It shows that the average ski season across all resorts in Australia will be 44 days shorter (-42%) by 2050 in a mid greenhouse gas emissions scenario and 55 days shorter (-52%) in a high emissions scenario. 

 

Despite a dramatic decline in snowfall under mid and high emissions scenarios, the modelling highlights that the Australian snow industry would fare significantly better if decisive action is taken to reduce climate pollution in line with a low emission scenario this decade. The season would be 28 days shorter by 2050 (27%), then start to improve by 2080 if emissions are kept within a low scenario. The report calls for a coordinated approach to support the ski industry and communities who depend on the Australian Alps. 

 

The researchers say unless urgent climate action is taken, some alpine resorts could be at risk of closing their doors for good. By continuing to support renewable energy like wind and solar, Australia can continue the shift away from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, and aim for net zero emissions by 2035. 

 

The Australian Alps are considered to be the canary in the coal mine in terms of climate impacts across the alpine tourism sector globally, as well as one of Australia's most at risk regions in regards to climate change. Because of this, the world will be watching to see how the Australian Government responds. 

 

Protect Our Winters Australia Director and Lead Advocate, Sam Quirke said: “The ski season last year was tough, with minimal snowfall and some resorts having to shut their doors early. This report shows that we’ll see that happening more and more frequently, as ski seasons become more erratic and harder to predict due to global warming, until we do something about it. 

 

“Protect Our Winters is calling on the Federal Government to help communities and the ski industry adapt to a reduction in snowfall and warmer temperatures, and to prevent further damage caused by the burning of coal, oil and gas by scaling up renewable energy projects including solar, wind and batteries.

 

“The national importance of the Australian Alps can’t be understated. As well as contributing over $3 billion to regional tourism, the landscape has been home to First Nations people for thousands of years, and the snow-melt water runoff supports the livelihoods of farmers, other regional communities and cities across Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and the ACT. All of this hangs in the balance.”

 

The health of the Australian Alps are also critical to Australia’s agricultural needs and water security. Snow-melt water runoff provides an average of 9,600 gigalitres of water per year into the Murray-Darling Basin, which is around 29% of the Basin’s total annual flows. There is already water conflict in the Basin and climate change will directly reduce rainfall in the Australian Alps by 5-24% by 2050 and indirectly reduce catchment yield through ecological changes.  

 

“Our hope is that our new report and modelling shines a light on just how much is at stake and will unite our community and industry in demanding stronger action to protect it.”

 

“We’re also calling on the Federal Government to set a timeframe for amending our national environment laws, to include a strong climate trigger and stronger protections for water resources in alpine areas” Quirke said.  

 

The report also highlights an increase in competition for high ground in South-Eastern Australia. With climate change impacts like the snow line retreat and increasing temperatures, there will be more people vying for higher land with cooler temperatures. 

 

Report co-author and ANU researcher Ruby Olsson said: “We need to support vulnerable resorts to diversify into year-round tourism or to take other significant adaptation measures. This could include a coordinated approach between state governments to support those ski resorts that are most at risk. 

 

"The report highlights there are lots of interconnected impacts from climate change across alpine tourism, regional communities, hydroelectricity, high country water flows into the Murray-Darling Basin, carbon sequestration, ecosystems, and First Nations. As climate change transforms the Australian Alps we will need to make trade-offs between these different areas. To make these trade-offs we need to have value driven conversations with everyone who has a connection to the Alps.

 

"There are also opportunities for the alps; the region will become a haven from increasing temperatures and heat waves across the rest of Australia, which means summer tourism in the region could thrive.

 

"The more we can limit the impacts of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions the less expensive adaptation by businesses, communities, and the environment will be and the more options we will have. Waiting to take action increases the risk of outcomes - such as resort closure or species extinction - that are difficult or impossible to undo. So this decade is critical,” Olsson said.

 

Report co-author, ANU Professor Adrienne Nicotra, who is also Director of the Australian Mountain Research Facility, said: “The Australian Alps are critically vulnerable to climate change and are already experiencing significant impacts on plants, animals and their water values. As well as keeping fossil fuels in the ground to prevent devastating climate change, we need investment that brings together mountain scientists, policy makers, resort owners and Alpine communities to map out a plan that sees them adapt.

 

The Australian Alps boast over a million hectares of spectacular environments and are home to unique animals and plants found nowhere else in the world. These iconic landscapes deserve our attention,” Professor Nicotra said.  

 

ENDS

 

To arrange interviews, please contact Jemimah Taylor at the Climate Media Centre on 0478 924 425 or jemimah.taylor@climatemediacentre.org.au, or Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or dylan.quinnell@climatemediacentre.org.au

 


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Photos to go with the report, are available online here - credit information is in the names of the photos, and please let us know if you want any more information for captions for specific images.

 

About Protect Our Winters Australia 

Protect Our Winters Australia is a passionate community of outdoor enthusiasts, athletes and industry brands uniting the outdoor community to advocate for policy solutions to climate change. We believe our fragile alpine ecosystem and our love for adventure amongst it, demands our participation in the fight to save it and everything it represents. POW Australia is a non-for-profit organisation run fully by volunteers.

 

About the Australian National University 

The Australian National University (ANU) was established by an Act of the Federal Parliament in 1946. Its founding mission was to be of enduring significance in the post-war life of the nation, to support the development of national unity and identity, to improve Australia’s understanding of itself and its neighbours and to contribute to economic development and social cohesion. In the seven decades since, the University has cemented its unique national position and its standing as one of the world’s finest institutions.

 

About the Australian Mountain Research Facility

The Australian Mountain Research Facility brings together leading institutions and researchers across four states and territories to produce world-leading ecosystem, evolutionary and biophysical science to guide adaptive management of High Mountains across Australia. It will support research to assess the extent and effects of changing climate, water and fire regimes on ecosystem processes and their feedbacks and provide a structure for integrated research, management and governance of Australia’s mountains.

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