Climate Change and Recreation Benefits in an Alpine National Park

By Richardson, Robert B.; Loomis, John B. | Journal of Leisure Research, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Climate Change and Recreation Benefits in an Alpine National Park


Richardson, Robert B., Loomis, John B., Journal of Leisure Research


Introduction

The recreation benefits to a consumer are a measure of how much satisfaction or utility the consumer obtains from the recreation experience (Loomis & Walsh 1997). The level of particular weather variables may influence the benefit or utility derived from the recreation experience. The effect of weather on the visitor's experience may affect recreation choices, utility maximization, and net amenity benefits. The purpose of this paper is to measure the influence of weather conditions on recreation benefits--measured as net willingness to pay (WTP) for the recreation experience of a national park visit. The results of this analysis have implications for the measurement of the economic value of weather forecasts for recreation, in order to maximize value (utility) to visitors. The effect of weather conditions on recreation benefits also has implications for climate change policy. In particular, a complete accounting of the benefits and costs of climate change includes consideration of non-market effects such as recreation. If there are substantial gains or losses in recreation due to climate change this may influence the overall economic assessment of policies for slowing global climate change. Management plans that address the effects of climate change on recreation benefits can incorporate adaptation or mitigation strategies that take into account the predicted welfare impacts of climate forecasts.

The measurement of recreation benefits is based on comparing the utility of additional trips with the cost of additional trips. Consumers will continue to take trips as long as the added utility (or benefits) of another trip exceeds the price (or costs). If the marginal benefit of one more trip is greater than the price, the visitor is made better off by taking the trip. Information about the number of trips taken per year under different price levels allows for the valuation of consumers' willingness to pay for trips as well as the estimation of a demand curve. The residual benefit to consumers who are willing to pay higher amounts than the price is known as consumer surplus, or net willingness to pay. It is the area under the demand curve and above the actual costs of making the trip. Consumer surplus for non-market benefits such as recreation can be measured using the contingent valuation method, a survey-based technique.

Climate change represents a systematic shift in the entire distribution of daily weather. We are using natural variations in the current daily weather to estimate the relationship between WTP and weather variables, in order to make inferences about a long-term, permanent change in the level of weather variables associated with global climate change.

Background

The effects of climate on individual well-being are well-documented (Cline 1992). Precipitation, temperature, wind, and sunshine were shown to affect location choices for migration (Blomquist, Berger, & Hoehn (1988). Madison (2003) estimated that average temperature increases of 2.5[degrees]C would result in net amenity benefits for high latitude countries. Changes in weather and climate significantly affect recreation participation (Perry 1997). Temperature and precipitation may affect recreation opportunities as well as the utility obtained from recreation. Many recreation activities are dependent on specific natural resources--for example, snow depth may facilitate cross-country skiing but may hinder hiking opportunities. Rainfall and water levels may affect opportunities for boating, wildlife viewing, or picnics. Tourism-based economies such as winter recreation destinations may be particularly vulnerable to climate variability due to warmer temperatures and less snowfall (Wall 1992; IPCC 2001; Scott, McBoyle, & Mills, 2003).

Framework Addressing the Effects of Climate on Recreation Benefits

Climate change is expected to affect recreation in three ways (Mendelsohn & Markowski 1999). …

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