A panel discussion - Our Changing Snowscapes: Climate Change Impacts and Recommendations for the Australian Alps

Photo: Supplied

This report, titled Our Changing Snowscapes: Climate Change Impacts and Recommendations for the Australian Alps developed by the Australian Mountain Research Facility and ANU, commissioned by Protect Our Winters Australia, reviews the current state of climate change impacts on the Australian Alps and puts forward recommendations for a better path forward. 

This report summarises a broad expanse of literature about current and projected climate change impacts on the Australian Alps and presents new Australia-first modelling of climate change impacts on the Australian ski industry. The report highlights a cascading series of interconnected impacts across alpine tourism, regional communities, hydroelectricity, high country water flows to the Murray-Darling Basin, carbon sequestration, high country ecosystems, and First Nations impacts and makes recommendations on how best to respond to these impacts. 

The spectacular Australian Alps extend over 1.6 million hectares of public land contained in 11 national parks and nature reserves across New South Wales (NSW), Victoria (VIC), and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). They are home to nationally significant winter-tourism sectors, thriving and passionate regional communities and some of Australia's most unique and fragile landscapes. 

The impact of climate change on temperature, precipitation, and snow conditions in the Australian Alps is stark and has been heralded for more than three decades. In 1988, it was predicted that climate change will drastically impact the Australian Alps, and that even small temperature increases would have a catastrophic impact on the Australian winter tourism industry. The Australian snowpack is now at a 2,000-year low. Snow cover between 1954 and 2012 has reduced by 30% and the length of the ski season has already contracted by 17% - 28% across most Australian alpine resorts. Businesses and regional communities at present are experiencing the impacts of climate change and these impacts are projected to worsen rapidly without decisive climate mitigation.

This event, being a presentation on key findings and recommendations by lead author Ruby Olsson followed by a panel discussion and audience Q+A, will unpack the findings of the report and its implications for Australia's winters and alpine regions. Importantly, the event will explore the recommendations of the report and how we move forward on crucial climate adaptation and mitigation work in the Australian Alps, towards a future that protects Australian winters. 

Panel members include: 

Ruby Olsson (panellist)

Ruby Olsson (author) is a social scientist currently undertaking a PhD at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University. Her PhD explores the socio-economic impacts of snow gum dieback in the Australian Alps, how natural resource managers are making climate adaptation decisions, and what impacts possible interventions for snow gum dieback will have. Ruby is passionate about the Australian bush and likes to get outdoors running, mountain biking, canyoning and skiing. Writing this report was a great opportunity to combine this love of nature-based recreation with her research on climate change adaptation.

Adrienne Nicotra (panellist)

Professor Adrienne Nicotra is a plant ecologist whose research focusses on understanding the capacity of plants to respond to environment and environmental change. She has studied native species from a wide range of environments, though she is particularly fond of mountain flora. Adrienne is passionate about teachingvand capacity building, be it undergraduate students, particularly in intensive field ecology courses or higher degree research students. She is the director of the Australian Mountain Research Facility. In all these endeavours she is fortunate to get to work in spectacular mountain environments where her love of hiking and skiing comes quite in handy.

Richard Swain (panellist)

Richard Swain has worked for 30 years as a river guide and ecotourism operator within Kosciuszko National Park. In 2018 he initiated the award winning Reclaim Kosci campaign to protect Kosciuszko National Park from the impacts of feral horses. Richard recently co-directed the Where the Water Starts environmental documentary. As a Wiradjuri man and ambassador for the invasive Species Council, Richard is currently working on the Voice for Country campaign. Richard is an Hon Associate Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU College of Science.

David Pocock (panellist)

Having migrated from Zimbabwe with his family as a teenager, David went on to captain the Wallabies and Vice-Captain the Brumbies as part of a stellar rugby career in which he has been awarded for leadership on and off the field. With a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture, David also has a track record as a powerful advocate on issues ranging from climate to marriage equality. In 2021, David attended the COP26 climate summit and led The Cool Down campaign that saw over 470 Australian athletes from 40+ sports call on the Australian Government to lift its ambition on climate change. Upon returning home, he announced his run as the community-endorsed Independent Senate candidate for the ACT. After campaigning on a platform of integrity, doing politics differently and making Canberra count, David was successfully elected at the 21 May 2022 Federal Election.
 

Sam Beaver (chair) - Sam Beaver is the volunteer policy lead at Protect Our Winters Australia and a research officer at the ANU's Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions. Sam finds himself spreading his time between his passions of climbing, skiing and being outside wherever possible while working on climate action and environmental connection through his work as a researcher and tutor at ANU, an outdoor and environmental educator for school groups, and a volunteer for Protect Our Winters Australia. Volunteering for POW, Sam gets to combine all his favourite things in skiing, helping to protect the planet and being surrounded by a community full of stoke and purpose for the mountain environments he loves.