The Canary in the Coalmine: Australian Ski Resorts and their Response to Climate Change


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The Australian ski industry represents a ‘canary in the coalmine’. Globally, it is one of the first and most visibly impacted industries by the risk of climate change. This study explores the perceptions of people associated with the operations of ski resorts in south-eastern Australia. It was hypothesised that ski resorts, given the value of their assets, would anticipate and respond to the threat of climate change. The responses demonstrate how representatives of the Australian ski industry perceive climate change issues, and the measures that are being taken to address this issue at particular resorts. These responses provide insights into how other firms and industries might respond to the biophysical impacts of climate change. Using in-depth interviews, the study compares the perceptions and responses of resort managers and government representatives with those from previous studies. The analysis draws on and improves the model of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its development as a policy framework for adaptation. The major findings of this study are that a physical meltdown may not lead to a financial meltdown, that business responses to climate changes are more varied than has been represented in the literature to date and that the tension between competing firms on the one hand and industry cooperation on the other strongly influences the types of response that may develop.