The most recent IPCC assessment report has, among other things, found that not only are poorer nations at extreme risk, but even the richest countries won’t be able to control climate change’s impacts. Suston reaches out to Amy Horton at OIA to hear what this means for the outdoor industry.

On August 9th, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a summary of its Sixth Assessment Report, providing an update on current state of our climate and future modelling. In short, it found that we are likely to pass the Paris Agreement’s preferred goal of limiting warming to 1.5 C already mid-century, and to even overshoot the 2 C maximum goal by 2080 unless stringent emissions reductions are implemented. Should we fail to do so, extreme weather events are projected to increase for all parts of the planet.

This year’s increased incidence of wildfires, heatwaves, flooding and droughts are already confirming this trajectory, and are likely just a taste of things to come. With climate change now past our doorstep, how can (and should) the outdoor community respond? Amy Horton, Senior Director of Sustainable Business Innovation at Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), weighs in.


What do you think are the key takeaways from the latest IPCC assessment report for the outdoor industry?

The systems we rely on to do business are in peril. Supply chains are suffering from dual crises of COVID-19 and climate  And then there’s the diminished outdoor experience – what will it cost to get outdoors comfortably and without risking adverse health impacts? And how might that impact inclusion?

The newest IPCC report highlights and repeats the warning that transformational, rapid and systemic action is required. This is not how systems normally move, so we have to stretch our goal setting beyond what can be modeled today and we need to pull on a lot of levers at the same time.

That is why OIA has called on the outdoor industry to become climate positive by 2030. This is an ambitious goal that addresses decarbonization/reductions, removal and advocacy – all parts of the system that need to change to fully address the problem. With so much at stake for our industry, if we can’t lead then who will?


What, at the very least, do you think every outdoor business should begin doing right now?

Measure their full footprint, set a science-based targets and begin (or double down on) their reductions. The Climate Action Corps aims to reduce the time, cost and effort of doing all of these things.


Even under the most optimistic scenario based on ambitious climate action, the report states that enough greenhouse gases are locked into the atmosphere to virtually guarantee a more dangerous and destructive climate in the future. How exposed do you think the outdoor industry is to the early impacts of climate change in the short term?

We can’t yet quantify the impacts and risks across the industry but anecdotally, we are quite exposed. Consider all the park and camp site closures this year in the U.S. and globally, due to wildfires. Consider the rising or perhaps untenable insurance costs of operating an outdoor recreation business in a wildfire prone area. In Colorado alone, this summer we experienced simultaneous drought, wildfire and flooding due to extreme weather.


Do you see any ways for the industry to adapt or increase resilience?

Diversifying business models is certainly one opportunity to build resilience and drive sustainable practices at the same time. But ultimately, we want to enable all people to be able to experience the wonder and benefits of the outdoors, and that depends on a healthy outdoor experience. So we need to not only think about becoming more resilient and adapting, but also standing strong on reversing the worst impacts.


Beyond the business world, many communities are already being impacted by climate change. What role and responsibility do you think the outdoor industry can have here, and what can be done in practical terms?

We have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to our customers and employees and society to create the conditions that will enable that rapid and transformational shift to a low carbon economy. But it will not happen without business bringing their voice to the table. In the U.S. in particular, we are coming up on one of the most consequential moments in history for ambitious climate legislation. We need clean power to have clean air. We need affordable EVs and widespread infrastructure so that people can get to places to recreate with a much lower impact on those precious natural places. And we can also better manage for wildfire prevention, drought and flooding through nature-based solutions that also sequester carbon and create jobs.

OIA will be delivering education and actions members can take to influence and drive these outdoor industry relevant policies. With more people getting outside than ever before due to Covid-19 and the increasing awareness and appreciation for the outdoors, we are in a unique moment in time to leverage our brand power for big impact.


Image: “Changing” by Alisa Singer

Jonathan Eidse
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