Climate and Business

Colorado Plateau: Climate and Business

Climate change has captured the attention of both the scientific and business communities. While scientists are trying to figure out a model that properly explains climate change, the business community searches for quick-fixes so that their portion of the economy may stay afloat. It appears that the science behind climate change is taking time to materialize into a language that the business community can understand. There are many businesses on the Colorado Plateau but one in particular, tourism, is vulnerable to climatic shifts and business owners are worried about what that means for their businesses.

Factors Affecting Climate

Climate variability in the LCRB (Lower Colorado River Basin) has been studied in recent years but with little solid evidence as to the cause or predictability of recent drought behavior. Scientists’ have, however, gathered the information that shows a relationship between climate change in the LCRB and the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The AMO is a change in sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean near the eastern and southeastern areas of the United States that changes every 60-801 years. Fluctuations in the AMO’s temperature contribute to hurricanes and other weather phenomena along with the southern, midwestern, and eastern states. Although findings are not conclusive, there have been trends in the warming phase of the AMO and the enlargement of drought-areas seen as far west as the LCRB (Ellis et al., 2009). ENSO’s ocean-atmospheric relationship plays a big role in precipitation that falls within the United States. In the El Niño phase of ENSO2, there are smaller areas of drought in the LCRB during fall and winter periods (Ellis et al., 2009). The PDO plays a somewhat minimal role in climate fluctuation as trade winds from the east keep PDO atmospheric conditions out over the Pacific Ocean and the northwestern area of the United Staes. The AMO, however, seems to play a more dominant role in the atmospheric relationship of the LCRB and can help or hinder drought conditions depending on whether sea-surface temperatures are positive (warm) or negative (cold).

Local Business’ Concerns Toward Climate

In 2007, a workshop on “Climate and Tourism on the Colorado Plateau” in Boulder, CO, brought representatives from research, industry, and environmental organizations together to discuss climate change on the Colorado Plateau. One of its guests, Stephen Gray, a Wyoming State Climatologist, says that “warmer temperatures (increasing evapotranspiration) coupled with a decrease in snowpack threatens surface water supplies, lowers winterkill of insects (such as the mountain pine beetle), and leads to a rise in wildfire prevalence and severity” (Alvord et al., 2007). Local businesses are concerned that such climatic behavior will impede on their economy. One indication is the “prolonged periods of rainfall [that] negatively influence tourist willingness to go Whitewater rafting, camping, or golfing” (Alvord et al., 2007). Participants acknowledged that more research on the climate of the Colorado Plateau needed to be conducted.

Ethical Considerations

While local businesses are searching for answers on how they should adjust for climate change, many need to consider the ethical implications of running traditional economic practices when projecting tourist-based attendance. Part of the draw that attracts tourism to the Colorado Plateau is the pristine image that has been used in promoting and marketing the area’s landscape. If drought (and/or flood) conditions act in further extremity, many who have been attracted to the area will suffer without prior knowledge of what conditions are attributed to climate change. Both the scientific and business communities would benefit from open dialogue about the status of the Colorado Plateau with respect to climate change.


Climate change is a very dynamic and unpredictable chain of events. Although atmospheric and maritime occurrences are becoming better understood (as with the AMO, PDO, and ENSO), there are still many questions being raised about the accuracy and predictability of climatic patterns. The models that scientists are constructing will undoubtedly influence business practices and with the current state of pressure that businesses are under to stay afloat, let alone grow, ethical awareness will be imperative in moving forward.

The current challenges human beings face in relation to our changing environment are substantial. In order to keep our world from collapsing in upon itself while solving the conflicts an exponentially growing human population inflicts upon its environment and fellow human beings we must shift our ethical paradigm from its current state to one that is compatible with the needs of the environment and eachother. All people maintain similar ehtical universalities and the environmentally-centered values we need to adopt are present in the world. Sustainable developement is a major factor in the world today and will continue to grow as time goes on. Sustainable development requires a significant change to philosophical and religious attitudes. The Western world needs to shift its awareness from anthropocentrism to one that is ecocentric. A sustainable society cannot be achieved without fundamental changes in our basic thinking, ethical values, morals and religious beliefs. In this paper, I will focus on the environmental impacts of human activity here on the Colorado plateau that relate to food security and present some positive actions some communities have become involved with with an ecocentric attitude.