How Climate Change is Impacting Outdoor Recreation Pursuits

As anthropogenic climate change continues to be a geopolitical issue, it is also substantially affecting outdoor recreation pursuits

By: Brady Coyle, Staff Writer

Climate Change and Outdoor Recreation – By Tamara Spence

Human-induced climate change is taking its toll on the planet in many different ways. One area of significant impact is on the outdoor recreation industry, which is an important part of many people’s lives here at Lakehead.

As LU students in Thunder Bay, we have the privilege of being surrounded by some of the most spectacular opportunities for outdoor recreation in the country.

Students and staff have access to two spectacular provincial parks, in Quetico and Wabakimi. They also have vast green spaces surrounding the city, nearby rivers and lakes that are begging to be paddled, ski hills that can be accessed through public transit and all this in a city that is built on shores of the second biggest lake in the world.

Thunder Bay is an outdoor recreation enthusiast’s goldmine. So the question now is: What will the effects of climate change be on outdoor rec?

For one, shorter winters can be expected, which will lead to shorter seasons for skiing, snowboarding and other cold weather activities. Living in Canada, this will disappoint many, as the country is a haven for winter recreation, and has seen a rise in winter outdoor activity participation since hosting the Olympics in 2010. The Ministry of Natural Resources, however, predicts a net positivity in outdoor recreation participation.

The MNR speculates that shorter winters will increase engagement in outdoor recreation activities, as warm weather recreation is more popular.

Increase in participation is wonderful, as outdoor recreation has many proven physical and mental health benefits. What the MNR believes, however, is that climate changes influence on the seasons will lead to more participation, specifically, in provincial and national parks. That will translate into more localized degradation of ecosystems and habitats within park boundaries.

Aquatic habitats are going to be affected as well and one area the MNR is currently trying to assess and quantify is what is going to happen to fish populations. The hypothesis is that fishing populations, particularly walleye in Northern Ontario, will see a decrease due to warmer climates and longer fishing seasons.

Beaches are another area that will be influenced by climate change in aquatic areas. With the expected rise in lakes and ocean levels, beaches will be greatly reduced in size. This will lead to less recreation at beaches worldwide, as there will simply be less space.

So when will we see all these effects take place?

In the grand scheme, the MNR projects many of these affects to begin in the short term, taking place between the present and the year 2049.

What is difficult with projecting longer term affects of anthropogenic climate change is that the factors that often dictate impact are constantly changing; there are constant technological advancements happening, governance turnover every four years, continually conflicting business interests. The factors that influence climate change are inconsistent and do not allow for easy predictions.

Anthropogenic climate change is happening and while there are certainly still many who are skeptical about it, according to Forbes, the literature indicates that 97% of climate scientists believe that global warming is occurring and that humans are the primary cause.

There will be many significant effects from the warming of our planet, and outdoor recreation is an area that is not exempt.

So, get out there and snowshoe while you still can.

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